Brooklyn Eagle: P.S. 8 Middle School Coming?

The Brooklyn Eagle’s Mary Frost reports that relief may be in sight for middle school dilemma facing P.S. 8 parents:

Brooklyn Eagle: The city hopes to locate the P.S. 8 extension in a building housing George Westinghouse Information Technology High School and City Polytechnic High School at 105 Tech Place, fronting Tillary Street.

“This is a district that needs high-quality middle school seats, and P.S. 8 has a history as an excellent elementary school,” said DOE spokesman Frank Thomas. “We are proposing an expansion so they can offer that same quality education to middle school students.”

“We believe it’s going to go forward,” said P.S. 8 Principal Seth Phillips, “though there are still a few stages to get by. We believe everything is ‘go’ for next year – and it’s the right thing to do. We look forward to building something special.”

Phillips said that the middle school would open with roughly 54 sixth-grade seats, then expand each year. As an expansion of P.S. 8, the middle school would serve existing P.S. 8 students, “but if any spots are left over we would open it up to district students.”

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  • davoyager

    What an extraordinary day for Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo. No longer will young families have to leave and relocate to other boroughs or the burbs or pony up private school tuition when their kids reach middle school age. We will gain a measure of stability and continuity that will improve the quality of life for all who live here. These families will grow and invest in the community and more and more this area will be home rather than a temporary stopover in peoples lives. Congratulations to all who have worked so hard to make this come about; and a special thank you to Mr. Phillips who is willing to take on all this extra work when he didn’t have to for the good of the community. A good neighbor, a good friend and a very special person. Thank you.

  • stuart

    it is amazing to me how the school system tortures parents. Why should people worry about where their child attends sixth grade? I find it astonishing that any parents with options opts to live in the city. The suburbs are so easy by comparison. I guess that is why the city has roughly the same population it had in 1928.

  • Gerry

    @ Dayvoyager – its NOT Dumbo its DUMBO.

  • Gerry

    Now Nabeguy can move back to Brooklyn Heights!

  • nativenyer

    For many years, neighbors have posted comments similar to these about the necessity of a middle school in Brooklyn Heights: Elementary and Middle School kids shouldn’t have to leave the immediate neighborhood, cross dangerous highways, be forced to attend school in the midst of a busy business area far from our safe enclave.
    However, the above announcement of a planned PS8 Middle School expansion into the Westinghouse HS campus seems to have changed all of that.
    People seem ecstatic and indeed thankful to have the opportunity to now leave the neighborhood, cross those same busy highways and have their young kids make a long daily walk far from our safe enclave.
    Check Google Maps….. The Westinghouse HS campus is far from the Heights, indeed considerably farther than the already existing zoned Middle School that has been cited as “too far” and “not suitable”, or PS307, also “too far” and “not acceptable”.
    Are those “issues” no longer relevant? Or, is it now ok because the PS8 kids will be able to continue to attend a school fashioned just for “them”, without the intrusion of the surrounding “others”?
    How about attending the local schools and making them better, rather than using political pull to create your own (as if the PS8 extension and Dock Street weren’t enough) – thereby perpetuating the segregated and elitist school system that currently exists?

  • Cranberry Beret

    I believe the closest existing District 13 middle school is McKinney @ 101 Park Avenue. Much farther than Westinghouse.

    If you’ve ever walked to the main post office from Brooklyn Heights, then you’ve basically walked to Westinghouse.

  • Willow St. Neighbor

    Westinghouse HS is .75 miles from PS8. That’s about a 15 minute walk for me and I am 60+ years old.
    When I lived on LI I sent my two kids to a parochial high school 45 minutes from our home. It was the best school they could get into.
    Because of zoning, the good public school district was on the other side of our street and my children attended the local public school for a few years before the situation became intolerable and I pulled them out. The only other option that was affordable was parochial school.
    IMHO, this is excellent news. Considering what I had to go through to afford a decent education for my own children, I hope this all works out and that the people here will not have to agonize about where they will be sending their children to continue their public school education when the time comes.

  • nativenyer

    Not that it’s really important, but Westinghouse is several blocks farther than the Post Office and McKinney is closer to PS8. That wasn’t really my point – rather questioning how the former “problems” no longer seem to matter….

  • PS 8 parent

    There actually aren’t any zoned middle schools in District 13. It’s an all-choice district. There also aren’t any really great middle schools in the district, in contrast to, say, Districts 15 (Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Sunset Park) or 2 (much of Manhattan), both of which have top-notch middle schools. This is really good news.

  • nabeguy

    Does anyone know why this option is coming up only now, and not years ago, when parents were fighting the pitched battles that nativenyer refers to? Certainly the need for an area middle school was no less back then when parents were basically at the feet of the SCA, DOE and Two Trees and accepting any option thrown at them.

  • Cranberry Beret

    Nativenyer, you’re just inventing geography. McKinney is about 1.25 miles and a 25 min walk from PS 8. Westinghouse is 0.75 miles and a 15 min walk. Also Westinghouse is 2 blocks past the post office, not several. If your argument is based on perception of distance, well yes it’s important to get the facts right on this point.

  • nativenyer

    Cranberry Beret: with all due respect, I don’t think you are correct -but distance is really the least of the issue. Again, I was referring to the complaints posted on this and other sites over the years, but that now seem to be forgotten.

  • Slyone

    nativenyer, On distance, google maps shows clearly that Westinghouse really is significantly closer — especially to those zoned for PS 8 who live in Concord Village, which is basically a 2 minute walk from Westinghouse. Westinghouse is between Jay and Bridge Streets across from McLaughlin Park; McKinney is between 6 and 7 blocks farther east. To get to Westinghouse, you have to cross Tillary, which is not super-fun with kids, but you can avoid crossing Brooklyn Bridge Blvd by using the A/C High Street Station underpass. To get to McKinney, it’s a long walk down Flushing or Tillary/Park, managing the BQE onramps in addition. I’m perplexed by the suggestion that these differences aren’t significant.

    I am more sympathetic to your point about parents trying to make their local schools better, but I fear your comments are off the mark here — especially with regard to PS 8 5th grade parents. PS 8 began its recent turnaround in 2003, when it was way-underutilized, with (if I’m remembering correctly) only 1 class of kids in each grade. The school then got a magnet grant and a new principal, and the principal began making the rounds in the neighborhood convincing parents to come to the school and work together to improve it. The current 5th grade parents weren’t quite at the vanguard of all that work, but they were early adopters, choosing to do precisely what you are saying parents should do. As a relatively new parent at the school, I feel quite grateful to those families for their work and commitment.


    Nabeguy draws attention to the murky and twisted history of a middle school for PS8. A BHA study was done five, six years ago that showed that the area in back of PS8 could have accommodated such a school. That plan was then rudely rejected by the BOE because Walentas had pre-sold them on a multi-million dollar deal for a school to be incorporated in his Dock Street condo. This incidentally helped him clear the way for the major re-zoning he was pushing hard for.
    At the time, a goodly number of sucker parents went for the bait without questioning Walentas’s self-serving proposal which resulted in a divided community.
    Right now Question Number One should be: Never mind Westinghouse. What ever happened to that middle school in Dumbo?

  • PS 8 parent

    I could be wrong, but I think what happened to the Dock St. school is that the building hasn’t been built. I don’t think it’s even been financed, nor likely to be anytime soon.

  • Reggie

    “Question Number One should be: Never mind Westinghouse. What ever happened to that middle school in Dumbo?”

    Building is anticipated to begin construction summer 2012 and the school is still in the budget and the five-year plan.

  • Flashlight Worthy

    Regardless of which school we’re discussing you have to cross the very busy Adams Street but I have to weigh in on the side of Cranberry Beret — Westinghouse is clearly a good bit closer to all of Brooklyn Heights that McKinney at 101 Park Ave.

    I used Google Maps to chart the walking distance between P.S. 8 and both schools. It’s 0.6 miles from P.S. 8 to Westinghouse, 1.2 miles to McKinney.

    More important to me… what happened to the middle school that Two Trees promised in their new development in Dumbo? Will this Middle School move there once the facility opens? Why hasn’t anyone asked about this?

  • PromGirl

    Property in Brooklyn Heights is selling for more than $1200/sq ft. and up. People paying $2M plus for an apartment and $4M up for a house will most likely not be sending their kids to these sub-standard schools with reading and math not even on grade level.
    The reason there has been no outcry for Public Schools is that until fairly recently, there weren’t very many families with children living here, certainly not in apartment buildings.

  • http://j lois

    My daughter attended PS 8 from 1988-1995 (K-6). At the time, PS 8 went from K – 8. Having grades 7-8 there didn’t work. A lot of neighborhood parents had come back to PS 8 at the time, but most of them left after Grade 5 to attend some of the special Middle Schools in Manhattan or private school. Applying to Middle School was a worse process than applying to college! Grades 7 and 8 were then filled with kids who did not get accepted to the special middle schools and who had not attended the school in the earlier grades and therefore had nothing invested in the school. It didn’t work. Why can’t there be a new middle school in the neighborhood without having it attached to PS 8? Let PS 8 concentrate on Pre-K to 5. Regardless of my opinion, I hope the new plan works.

  • Heights Mom

    The Dock St. Middle School will be a District 13-wide middle school, and PS 8 parents can certainly apply there if they wish. As the parent of a second grader at PS8 I’m overjoyed that the school will be extending through 8th grade for continuity reasons. Parents at PS 8 have put a great deal of time and effort into this cause and for all those that bitch and complain about it, go put your money and time where your mouth is to fight for the other District 13 students. No way am I sending my kind walking through the Navy Yard projects to go to school, sorry.

  • Heights Mom

    I meant my kid, not my kind.

  • PS 8 parent

    Or maybe you did mean “my kind?”

  • Heights Mom

    Well, would you want your middle school aged child to walk through those projects to go to school?

  • Villager

    Kudos to Heights Mom for saying it like it is….
    McKinney is right across the street from the projects. That is never going to change and you’re full of it if you say that wouldn’t be a factor if you had middle-school aged kids.

  • Nativenyer

    Heights Mom: Thanks for making my point. It seems that using political clout at the expense of others to get what’s good for you is the name of the game. Other kids in other neighborhoods, without that same clout, will just have to lump it. Way to go…..

  • Heights Mom

    How on earth did PS8 use political clout (which in this case was really just a LOT of hard work by the staff and PTA at 8) at the expense of others? How on earth would extending PS8 through the middle grades hurt other students in District 13? If anything, it will open up the seats at other well regarded D13 JHS that PS8 children would have been applying for. It’s a win win for all the children in the district.

  • Nativenyer

    Really? So I guess parents from any random neighborhood will now be able to grow a brand new school for their kids only – just because they don’t feel like sending them to the surrounding local schools. Without political intervention, of course….. And I guess we also shouldn’t remember how the non-urgent extension got built so quickly by being mysteriously jumped to the top of the CSA list (in front of schools that literally were crumbling)
    You’re not actually suggesting that all schools and neighborhoods in this City are treated equally, are you?

  • Slyone

    Wow, Nativenyer, you won’t bend at all on this.

    It’s not that you don’t raise good points, it’s that you have an unwaveringly negative vision of PS 8 and its community that ignores certain facts. For example, I too am interested in how and why the PS 8 extension was built. I don’t question the need, however; it was absolutely needed. I do wonder about the situation in other schools — and I’m sensitive to the fact that Brooklyn Heights is a relatively wealthy community with resources not available to many schools in Brooklyn. That said, PS 8 was a school rapidly expanding, bursting at the seams, and with a history of recent success — all of which could serve to make it an attractive candidate for expansion dollars even without something nefarious going on behind the scenes. (Out of curiosity, why do you say the expansion was non-urgent? Simply because the school wasn’t about to collapse? The school was incredibly overcrowded — did you visit last year? see the IEP services providers behind dividers set up in classrooms? the library cut in half because half was needed for another classroom? And then this year there are six kindergartens; I suppose the way to house two additional classes would have been to terminate the pre-K program, and use the trailers for extra Ks.) I don’t mean to say that other schools aren’t needy, just to say that PS 8 needed the expansion.

    The making of the PS 8 middle school, though, seems even less (potentially) nefarious to me. You’re right that as an extension of PS 8, and not a general District 13 school, it will first serve a community of above average wealth in Brooklyn (though it also serves a slice of the Farragut Houses, and many others who are not at all wealthy). But at least for the immediate future (and I believe long after that), there will be available seats for non PS 8 kids. I can’t say that there are no parents at the school whose main motivation here is ensuring that their kids don’t mix with those from other, less privileged neighborhoods, but the stated (and I think genuine) reason for having it be a school that serves first the PS 8 community as an extension of the PS 8 elementary school is precisely because that community — the community of parents, teachers, and staff at the school — have worked so well together to create a school that more and more people want to send their kids to, that offers a vision for education that emphasizes arts education and extensive enrichment partnerships with NYC (and, in particular) Brooklyn-based organizations. Trying to create a middle school that builds on that vision without the community that has helped realize the vision for the elementary school would be a tremendously difficult task (and would be much less likely to be successful). Should we have other new schools in District 13? Should they be charters? Should they be regular publics? Should they be neighborhood schools or district-wide? These are complicated questions with unclear answers. But where you have a success story and a community that’s interested in building on that success story, it seems worth a try to me. (Though I was very interested in the story told above about how having a middle school attached to PS 8 didn’t work in the past . . . )

  • Nativenyer

    Sorry that you think that I am being negative towards p8. It is a lovely, well-intentioned school and my objections have nothing at all to do with them specifically. Mine is a theoretical objection to the drastic lack of parity that exists around this City and how otherwise “liberal” neighbors have no problem with the segregation of schools and neighborhoods, as long as it works to their favor…