Elected officials along with representatives of stakeholder and advocacy groups gathered last Wednesday for the first meeting of the Downtown Brooklyn School Planning Taskforce. The working group was developed by Councilman Steve Levin’s office in conjunction with the District 13 Community Education Council (CEC) and includes but is not limited to:
- Local elected officials and/or their representatives (city, state and federal)
- CEC 13
- President’s Council 13
- Delegates from DOE, Office of Space Planning
- D13 Superintendent, Barbara Freeman
- Principals and/or their representatives from P.S. 8, P.S. 307 and P.S. 287
- PTA Presidents from P.S. 8, P.S. 307 and P.S. 287
- Delegates of P.S. 8 prospective parents groups (for children wait-listed for 2015 and those ascending to Kindergarten in 2016, 2017…)
- Downtown Brooklyn School Solutions
- Neighborhood Associations/NYCHA Tenants’ Associations in school zones for P.S. 8, 307 and 287
Senator Squadron and Councilmember Levin opened the meeting citing fifty Kindergarten children wait-listed at P. S. 8 as the catalyst for the formation of the Taskforce. But they, along with CEC 13 President, David Goldsmith stressed the directive of the Taskforce is to devise short, medium and long-term strategies to alleviate and further prevent overcrowding throughout the entire District. P.S. 133 was held up as a good example of a team-work effecting positive changes for a community. Goldsmith reported those in attendance spoke with “unity of purpose” and “represent[ed] the very diverse D13 communities in Downtown Brooklyn, spoke very candidly of the challenges [they] face together.” Goldsmith described the several sub-committees that were created after an almost 3-hour discussion:
- “Data Committee: Collect data on current and future student enrollment…
- Capacity in Existing Buildings: Improve the process to well inform parents of the K enrollment process for next year as well as to help well inform all incoming parents of immediate K options for their child…work on ensuring that existing schools in Downtown have the support they need to provide schools with in demand programming and curricula.
- Rezoning: Investigate the process and requirements for possible rezoning.
- Building NEW Capacity in the District: Work on the need and possible solutions to build new schools with seats in the district.
- Communications: Effectively increase communication across the [Taskforce] to keep all informed, in a transparent way of the discussions at hand. Additionally, charged to keep the entire district well informed of the conversations and proposals.”
Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams shared, “The D13 Taskforce is a necessary step to address the problem of overcrowding in Downtown Brooklyn schools. A comprehensive plan to address overcrowding must go hand in hand with ongoing development in all areas of Brooklyn. I encourage every stakeholder to be open to short and long term solutions that ensure quality education for all students.”
Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon expressed, “It is my hope that bringing together various stakeholders will yield concrete steps to be taken to immediately address the serious overcrowding at P.S. 8, resulting in fewer families kept in wait-list limbo. There is no substitute for truly collaborative planning. Together we can realistically yet creatively plan for the impending overcrowding of so many more of our elementary schools and to address the equally serious lack of middle school options for the district’s children.” Assemblymember Walter T. Mosely, who had a representative at the Taskforce meeting, spoke to this reporter from Albany and expressed his shared concern for the lack of middle-schools in the District. He plans to attend the tonight’s joint Community Board 8 Education Committee and the CEC 13 public hearing regarding the Elementary/Intermediate school proposed for the Atlantic Yards.
Chris Young, founder of Downtown Brooklyn School Solutions and Data sub-committee member shared, “My hope is that we can get the process in motion so other schools in the area don’t experience the same thing [as P.S. 8] where you have acute overcrowding that can’t be solved quickly.” While the School Construction Authority (SCA) was not in present at the meeting, Young explained most in attendance agreed new schools need to be built. Revised versions of the “Enrollment, Capacity and Utilization Reports” aka, the “Blue Book” are due this summer.
Councilmember, Laurie Cumbo added, “All children deserve access to the best academic resources that will develop their capacity for creative and critical thinking. As a community, we must foster a safe learning environment with supportive, talented and certified education professionals in classrooms where students are challenged with a rigorous curriculum…I look forward to working alongside the parents, educators, administrators, and other community stakeholders to address the current challenges faced by this school district as we endeavor to identify the solutions that will better position our scholars on the path towards success.”
Senator Squadron expressed, “We are all outraged by the school overcrowding at P.S. 8, and DOE’s failure to plan and communicate effectively. We raised the alarm last year, along with the PTA and the community, to avoid this crisis for neighborhood families. This problem will take many solutions, including the state law I passed requiring the City to change the way it projects the number of school seats needed in our neighborhoods. Our first meeting of this Taskforce was an important first step toward finding real solutions in the district, and hopefully bringing DOE and SCA to the table. I’ll continue working with Councilmember Levin, CEC 13, my colleagues, schools, parents and the community for meaningful planning to avoid this sort of crisis.”
Councilmember Levin is optimistic. “I am hopeful that this diverse group of parents, educators, elected officials and community advocates can come together to confront the immediate and long term challenges faced by schools in this area. [The] meeting was an encouraging first step but there is plenty of work ahead of us.” To that end, each committee will need help from the community. If you are interested in participating, please contact Councilman Levin’s Chief of Staff, Casey Adams at CAdams@council.nyc.gov. The next Taskforce meeting is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, June 25th.
DISCLOSURE: This post was edited on June 8th, 2015