Mary McDowell School construction begins

Construction scaffolding had gone up around the former St. Charles Borromeo Parochial School at 23 Sidney Place, as work starts on the building’s conversion to the Mary McDowell Friends School’s new Upper School Building, set to open in September 2011. Earlier this week, members of the School Administration, and their architects and construction team met with the community to discuss plans for the school and the construction schedule.

Mary McDowell is a K‑12 Quaker School established for students with learning disabilities and is currently housed in multiple buildings around Brownstone Brooklyn. The Upper School will be initially moving into the SCB school building and eventually expanding into the adjacent Rectory Building.

The exterior repair work now underway will take about six months, and is being funded by the Diocese. It will include repointing the brickwork, replacing the old wood frame windows, repairing the roof, and removing paint from the limestone facade. Concurrently, the school will be carrying out interior renovations and design including asbestos abatement and construction of new classrooms and offices, including a new reception area inside the gym entrance. Interior work is expected to take 9 months and will be done in time for the Fall term in 2011. In acknowledgement of the quiet nature of the Street, construction hours will be limited to weekdays from 8 AM to 4 PM (permits for weekend work would only be requested if the work schedule falls behind, and would only be used for quiet interior work).

Beginning in 2012, and as the student body expands, work will begin on converting the Rectory to additional classrooms and school facilities. A major addition to the structure will be a connector between the Rectory and the School Building, allowing for interior movement as well as the addition of an elevator. The connector would be primarily glass framed and set back from then street to retain the openness of the current passageway between the buildings leading to the courtyard.

When fully completed, the Upper School is expected to have 144 students in grades 9‑12, with a student/teacher ratio of 3:1.

Questions from the audience included concerns about school bus parking (most students travel by public transportation, and school buses stop only briefly to load and unlaod), student access to recreational facilities (facilities outside the neighborhood have been rented for sporting events), and student smoking policies (not permitted in or around the school, including adjacent building stoops).

Details of the proposed construction project will be posted shortly to the school’s website, and members of the community with questions can reach Head of School Debbie Zlotowitz at

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  • Quinn Raymond

    I think it’s wonderful that the building will be put to good use again.