After months of heated discussion over the rezoning of two public schools in Brooklyn Heights and Vinegar Hill — raising issues of segregation, social class and gentrification — District 13’s Community Education Council (CEC) voted Tuesday in favor of redrawing both school zones.
Starting with the next school year, kids living in Dumbo — Brooklyn’s most expensive nabe — will be zoned to attend Vinegar Hill’s P.S. 307 rather than the overcrowded P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights.
Is this a win for integration and educational equity?
The final public comment session for the hotly debated, highly controversial rezoning proposal for Brooklyn Heights’ P.S. 8 and Vinegar Hill’s P.S. 307 will be held just days into the New Year. If becoming more involved in local politics was part of your New Year’s resolution, now’s your chance.
In light of the controversy and parent complaints surrounding the rezoning proposal for Dumbo’s P.S. 8 and Vinegar Hill’s P.S. 307, the Department of Education has decided to hold a two-month discussion period before the plan is submitted to Community Education Council 13 for a formal vote.
The final rezoning proposal for Dumbo’s P.S. 8 and Vinegar Hill’s P.S. 307 is being presented tonight, Wednesday September 30, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at P.S. 307 at 209 York Street.
DOE representatives from the Office of District Planning will explain any amendments they have made to the proposal based on community reaction, and there will be opportunity for public comment.
Controversy over the proposed school rezoning in Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights and Vinegar Hill has grown into a national conversation. Tonight, the Department of Education will release its official rezoning proposal to the district’s Community Education Council (CEC). The plan aims to increase the size of the zone for P.S. 307 (pictured above) and decrease it for overcrowded P.S. 8.
But the issues in District 13 encompass more than just these two schools. To get another take, Brownstoner caught up with Rob Underwood — a District 13 parent and CEC member — to hear his perspective on the education needs of the area. No surprise, they’re entangled with the neighborhoods’ new construction.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you care about this school rezoning?
I am an elected member of CEC13 Brooklyn. I will be one of the people voting on the rezoning. I’m also a P.S./M.S. 282 parent (all CEC13 members are District 13 parents and 282 is a D13 school).
Where do you stand on the rezoning?
A heavily attended town hall meeting Wednesday about the proposed rezoning of P.S. 8 and P.S. 307 turned into an airing of general grievances in regards to gentrification. The meeting, held in the auditorium of P.S. 307, was attended predominantly by concerned parents from the two affected elementary schools, simultaneously representing two halves of a contrasting Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Heights’ P.S. 8 is overcrowded, and its student body is more than 50 percent white. The school’s zone, which includes Dumbo, is one of the largest in Brooklyn — perhaps a holdover from when Dumbo was not very residential. Vinegar Hill’s P.S. 307, which has one of the city’s smallest zones, has room to grow and services mainly black families, including from the Farragut Houses housing project across the street.
Intended as an informational session, the meeting was led by three officials from the Department of Education’s Office of District Planning, the Community Education Council of District 13, and the parent teacher association of P.S. 307.
The halfway house at 104 Gold Street. Photo by Barbara Eldredge
A controversy is unfolding around the proposed rezoning of P.S. 8 and P.S. 307, and one of our readers reminded us of a detail we’d forgotten: A federal halfway house sits just a block from P.S. 307 elementary school.
“DUMBO MUST UNITE,” the commenter wrote in response to our post about the rezonings. “I don’t want [students] to have to walk past the federal halfway house, where some very violent parolees are living… just to get to school.”
Brownstoner did a little digging, and found that the halfway house at 104 Gold Street is on a federal contract set to expire in 2016, and may not get renewed. To clarify, a federal halfway house is defined as housing for parolees from federal prisons. It will be interesting to see if the proposed rezoning of students from overcrowded, high-performing P.S. 8 to P.S. 307 will cause increased complaints regarding P.S. 307’s vicinity to both the halfway house and the Farragut Houses.
The Department of Education and the Community Education Council for District 13 have called two town hall meetings to discuss the controversial new boundaries drawn for Brooklyn Heights’ and Dumbo’s P.S. 8 and P.S. 307. Some parents were caught off guard by the rezoning, which aims to alleviate overcrowding at P.S. 8 by rezoning students to P.S. 307.
A district parent sent Brownstoner an email regarding details of the upcoming meetings:
A summertime school switch-up has Dumbo and Vinegar Hill parents reeling. New boundaries have been drawn for the overcrowded, but high-achieving P.S. 8, rezoning many students to the less crowded, albeit less elite P.S. 307, school officials revealed this week.
While better balancing the quantity and diversity of students at each school, the change-up does little to assure improved quality. First, some details of how the student makeup might change under the new rules.
P.S. 8’s current student body is 66 percent white, a number expected to rise to 75 percent with the new boundaries. Meanwhile, P.S. 307’s current student body is 95 percent minority, a number expected to decrease to 55 to 65 percent with the influx of students previously zoned for P.S.8, the Brooklyn Paper reported.