Brooklyn Heights’ PS 8 once again has a waiting list for next year’s kindergarten class, despite a controversial rezoning that drastically reduced the area served by the popular elementary school last year.
Parents had hoped the change would stave off overcrowding for at least a few more years, but the city’s hot fix hasn’t weathered the rapid influx of families to the area, according to a local leader.
“It was a band-aid — a patch,” said Community Education Council 13 president David Goldsmith, whose daughter attended PS 8. “Everyone is grappling with the fact that building in Downtown is outrageous and the amount of residential housing in exploding, and that whatever gain PS 8 got was just really temporary.”
The school had its first wait-list-free year in a long while in 2016 after the city cut the area its serves by roughly half, rolling Dumbo and Vinegar Hill into the PS 307 school zone — a move that outraged many prospective PS 8 parents who’d planned on sending their offspring to the Hicks Street school, as well as those at PS 307 who worry that a rush of rich white pupils will dramatically change a school that largely serves minority students.
But the relief was short-lived — this year it has yet again had to relegate 22 pint-sized pupils to purgatory, and they’ll only be eligible to attend if some of the 165 students offered spots elect to seek their schooling elsewhere.
A Department of Education rep attributes the increase to 18 out-of-zone kids who are being grandfathered into the school because they already had older siblings there before the borders changed — and he’s confident things will ease off in the coming years once all of those families pass through the system.
“The number of siblings receiving this priority will decrease in coming years,” said spokesman Will Mantel.
But Goldsmith thinks things will actually get worse due to Downtown development. And even if the city decides to throw money at the problem and erect a whole new elementary school, he said, the benefits wouldn’t be felt for years, so some more immediate solutions are still needed.
“Even if there was a pot of money and they could buy the land and build the buildings, we wouldn’t see these new school buildings for six, seven, or even eight years, so we have to look at this in terms of short-, medium-, and long-term solutions,” he said.
Goldsmith is hopeful those plans are already afoot, however — district Superintendent Barbara Freeman and the city already working to find some short-term solutions, including school co-locations and selling parents on the merits of other schools in the district with more seats, he says.
And it won’t involve blind-siding families with a pre-approved plan like the recent rezoning, he pledged.
“We’re done with the old way of getting things done,” Goldsmith said. “We’re going to have an open process and the planners are going to have discussions way before making proposals.”