The DOE’s Office of District Planning presented their final re-zoning proposal to the District 13 CEC at a meeting on Monday night. The ODP’s powerpoint deck outlined the general themes and recurring questions that were raised during a series of community meetings which began in late September.
While the zone lines remain unchanged, new to the plan is a 50 percent admissions set-aside at P.S. 307 for children who qualify for free or reduced lunch. Per the presentation, “The DOE is committed to implementing an admissions priority where students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch would have priority for 50% of the available seats at P.S. 307. Zoned students will continue to receive priority over non-zoned students who qualify for FRL. This priority would be implemented in 2017-18 school year at the earliest to ensure compliance with terms of magnet grant.”
The Magnet Grant is a Federal program and admissions guidelines enable students from throughout the District to attend P.S. 307. Per the DOE’s presentation, “The DOE anticipates requesting a 4th year extension for the Magnet Grant, which means federal magnet funding will continue for almost two more years, ending on 9/30/2017.”
Of major concern to the P.S. 307 community is whether the school would eventually “flip” to serve mostly affluent families from Dumbo should the re-zoning pass, thus losing their Title 1 funding in the process. P.S. 307 PTA Co-President Faraji Hannah-Jones expressed disappointment, “When we said 50 percent, we didn’t say 50 percent with conditions. We said 50 percent, period…We want the opportunity to sustain our equity for that neighborhood.” Adding, “We don’t want P.S. 307 to become P.S. 8.”
Hannah-Jones also referenced a joint action plan that had been previously presented to the DOE during community engagement meetings. “We also have over 400 letters signed from the Farragut houses, from the Church of the Open Door, from people from the school [all] supporting our plan. I urge you to listen.” Hannah-Jones added later in the evening the action plan includes a request for the DOE to fund the P.S. 307’s STEM lab for for an additional five years.
This announcement of the admissions priority for P.S. 307 comes just days after the DOE announced it would approve an admissions pilot program aimed at creating more diversity at seven public elementary schools including District 13’s P.S. 146, The Brooklyn New School and Arts & Letters in Fort Greene. The proposals had been under consideration since 2014.
Other elements of the re-zoning proposal explained that P.S. 287 was not included because of the DOE’s desire to reserve capacity at that school to accommodate projected residential development in Downtown Brooklyn. The proposal also includes the grandfathering of siblings. Meaning, siblings of children who currently attend P.S. 8 would be able to attend the school even if their residence has been re-zoned to P.S. 307. The DOE expects the full impact of the re-zoning to take about six years if sibling grandfathering is approved by the CEC.
Ansley Samson, spoke briefly on behalf of the P.S. 8 PTA, “As you know we support this re-zoning on the table because it is the only thing that begins to start the process of managing our severe and fast-growing overcrowding…As a PTA, we look forward engaging in this process and engaging with our sister schools in this district.” The DOE has scheduled a small-group meeting with members of the P.S. 8 and Dumbo community for December 2nd. This meeting is part of the extended period of community engagement that resulted from the delay in the re-zoning voting schedule.
The 45-day clock has officially started ticking and the CEC has until January 5th to vote. The CEC will likely decide the date of the vote during their next meeting. The next CEC meeting will take place from 6:30 – 8:30 pm on December 8th at P.S. 56 Lewis H Latimer, 170 Gates Avenue. Members of the community are encouraged to continue to submit their comments to the CEC/DOE via the CEC’s webform. Additional information may also be found on the Brooklyn page of the Office of District Planning’s webiste.