BHB Guest Post: P.S. 8 PTA on Overcrowding at the School

The editors of the Brooklyn Heights Blog asked us, co-presidents of the PTA of PS8, to author a guest post on our upcoming public meeting about overcrowding at PS8. We’re happy to have the opportunity to explain a bit more about why we’re organizing the meeting and what people can expect.

First, the details: Plymouth Church is generously hosting our meeting on November 20th, from 6:30-8pm. Senator Daniel Squadron, Council Member Steve Levin, and Assemblywoman-elect Jo Anne Simon are all planning to attend; we are hoping to get confirmation soon that a representative of the Department of Education will also be there. We’ve invited other community leaders and expect several to attend as well. Our meeting is an opportunity for us to present some facts and projections about the PS8 student population to these officials and our community, to demonstrate widespread concern in our community about our local school’s overcrowding, to call for short- and long-term solutions, and to inform community members of ways they can express their concerns to motivate action.

A quick sneak peek at what we will present in more detail at the meeting:

  • According to the DOE’s most recent official assessment (based on our student population last year), we were at 142% of our capacity (among the top 10% most-crowded schools in NYC in 2013-14).
  • The last 3 years have seen us bring in 6 kindergarten classes (about 140 students, the overwhelming majority being in-zone students) while only 3-4 fifth grade classes have left; we’ve lost all of our pre-K and some specialty classrooms to make room for more students, and had classrooms in several grades with 28-31 students. This pattern of growth is unsustainable: we do not have enough classrooms to support this many students.
  • Additional housing already approved and under construction in our zone will likely exacerbate our overcrowding even beyond what we are seeing now, based on the School Construction Authority’s formula for calculating the elementary school needs of new residential housing.
  • As we began having conversations with our key stakeholders, it became clear that there was not yet a long-term plan to address PS8’s continued and increasing overcapacity. The only “solution” discussed by the DOE at that time was limiting our incoming kindergarten (and perhaps other grades) to only 5 classes. Those 5 classes could get very large – after kindergarten, as large as 32 children per class. Given the growth we have seen in our school population in recent years as well as ongoing and proposed new residential construction in our school zone, we were concerned that no longer term solutions were yet being actively discussed. We saw the potential for a rapid increase in the number of children not offered a placement at their neighborhood public school, as well as increasing pressure to further add to the number of students in each classroom. Our elected officials shared these concerns, acknowledged that finding both short- and long-term solutions could be challenging, and expressed that our community needed to come out in force and demand that decision-makers start working on these solutions. This meeting is one way we seek to show the extent of community concerns.

    As a PTA, we seek to influence two different sets of actors. We want the DOE to begin a process of officially assessing and addressing our short- and long-term overcrowding, and to engage stakeholders in that process. We also want officials and representatives considering the approval of additional residential housing in our school zone to understand the significant and growing overcrowding problem at PS8. We are not taking a position as a PTA on whether any particular development should be approved; we are saying that before any new residential development is approved for the PS8 school zone, the elementary school needs of that housing should be addressed. We have written letters on behalf of our PTA to both groups and are seeking online signatures in support of these “letter-petitions.” Anyone interested in reading and signing in support of these letters can view and sign them on our website (

    We hope to see many Brooklyn Heights Blog readers on Thursday!

    Kim Glickman & Ansley Samson
    Co-presidents, PTA of PS8

    The opinions expressed in this guest post do not necessarily reflect those of BHB, its management or its writers.

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    • d13parent

      I’ve looked at PS 8’s enrollment numbers from last year and it seems as if their first grade class is larger than their K class was last year, yet they had no K wait list at the time. Where are the new students coming from? Out of zone? Curious what the percentage of in-zone students at the upper grades actually is.
      That said, if it’s truly in-zone overcrowding, would the PS 8 PTA agree that the obvious solution to rezone the North parts of DUMBO into PS 307? 307 has plenty of capacity and has suffered from years of redlining that pretty much assured it would be a high-poverty school. 307 also recently received a giant magnet grant to promote diversity, so let’s see the DOE support that initiative by actually zoning in some higher-income families.

    • Poplar

      I’m fairly certain that the children entering in 1st grade are almost exclusively in-zone. In addition to any 1st graders whose families who move into the area each year, a number of the local preschools have kindergarten programs and a percentage of their students then enter PS8 at 1st grade.

    • Lady in the Heights

      There are many neighborhood kids that attend Plymouth and Grace preschools. Those schools both have K classes. I would guess that the uptick in numbers comes from kids coming from those schools.

    • District 13 parent

      What would it take for the DOE to support PS 307 in a meaningful way to go along with a rezoning for DUMBO families? DUMBO parents are paying buckets of money to live in the neighborhood and it’s really hard to see they’re going to support a move like this. At the same time, though, the principal of 307 is incredibly smart and engaged, but she can’t bring these families in–and make them stay–without help from the powers that be. It’s not dissimilar to the situation at PS 8 when Seth Phillips first came–with the support of Carmen Farina.

    • Slyone

      I think understanding the problem of PS8 overcrowding (and any potential solutions) in the context of larger D13 is critical. Just looking at PS307 in particular, though, that school appears pretty much at capacity this year – based on the “target formula.” According to last year’s Blue Book, PS307’s capacity is 413 students, which I believe includes 2 preK classes. This year’s register (according to the school’s official nycdoe website) is 411. The numbers may be a little bit different because of the preK expansion at PS307 this year and there may be some room to grow (the blue book formula apparently allows schools to set aside a certain number of full-size classrooms for administrative staff, though PS8 doesn’t have that space to give at this point) — but, regardless, there doesn’t look to be that much extra space at PS307 at this point. And PS8’s overcrowding problem is big and getting bigger.

      I think the DOE is supporting PS307– it applied for and won a federal magnet grant for the school that’s bringing in a lot of money and it expanded preK there when PS8 lost its preK this year . . . and PS8 zone families are there for preK this year. The school’s enrollment has expanded by basically 100 students since 2011 (314 in 2011-12, according to their School Quality Report, to 411 this year). It’s still a high poverty school, with 85% of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch last year (I couldn’t find the numbers for this year), but that number has ticked down slightly. I’ll be interested to see what it is this year, with the school’s magnet status starting up. I firmly believe that nobody can “make people stay” in a school where they don’t want to be; schools are or become places where people want to send their children. It looks to me like PS307 is already a school where many people want to send their children.

      Looking at the numbers of new residences in PS8’s zone, it seems hard to avoid thoughts of some kind of rezoning and additional capacity. That said, if you cut off the eastern part of the PS8 zone (the only part that’s really near other schools in D13), you cut off much of PS8’s diversity (it’s not just DUMBO). And if one of our goals is to support and maintain diversity in all our schools, that’s probably something that should be considered, too, as we move ahead.

    • Lady in the Heights

      I don’t think you can have it both ways, though. There is so little diversity left at PS8, and though I firmly believe it is good for everyone, the school represents the zone. I am guessing 307 needs greater parental support, a strong PTA, and money from the parents. That is what made the difference at PS8. Until they have families that have the ability to make the financial and time investment, the school won’t improve enough for people to want to stay.

    • Doug Biviano

      Save the Library, Expand PS8/MS8 there!

      The politicians are baaing we need to find a place to expand to accommodate the overcrowding while they are virtually silent on all the major over-development projects causing it like the Park, LICH, and — the most obvious publicly owned land and possible site for a new school — the Brooklyn Heights Library.

      Will the Pols speak out against the sell off of this vital public asset where our library sits and potential other future public uses like a new school with enough room to bring MS8 closer? Will the Pols speak of how priceless the library is? Will the Pols speak how all this overdeveloping is harming us?

      They won’t because they are all one with Bill de Blasio who wants all this overdevelopment because they benefit in their political careers via campaign contributions. This time we need to hold their feet to the fire – Save the Library, Expand PS8/MS8 there!