After Public School 8 in Brooklyn Heights had to forego a music room due to the need for a first-grade classroom and had to cut the prekindergarten program because of a lack of space, New York City officials had an idea. They suggested that P.S. 8, that had to place 50 families on a waiting list for kindergarten last spring because of lack of space, could move two neighborhoods in its zone to nearby P.S. 307, which had space to spare, according to Kate Taylor of The New York Times.
But the idea met with intense opposition. Families who would be rezoned from P.S. 8, a mostly white school, to P.S. 307, a mostly black school, were against the idea. On the other hand, there were families in the housing project served by P.S. 307, the Farragut Houses, who were concerned that the influx of wealthy, mostly white families would alter their school.
Although New York City is one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the country, it has one of the most segregated school systems in the US, partly because elementary schools serve only children within each school’s zone. Even though the meshing of these two schools would take place because of overcrowding, the possible rezoning is becoming a study in how challenging it is to integrate even one of New York City’s schools.
For years, Dumbo, for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, had been an eroding industrial area. Now, Dumbo touts condominiums that sell for millions of dollars in a flourishing neighborhood. The city’s Education Department plans to present its proposal, at the end of this month, to the District 13 Community Education Council, which is a representative for school parents in the area and has the power to approve rezonings. The council would like to see the new boundaries take place by next year.
If the rezoning does take effect, the 34% of minority students in P.S. 8 will change to 25-35% and P.S. 307, which currently has 95% minority students, would change to 55-65% black and Hispanic students, writes Emma Whitford on Gothamist:
“We know some white people don’t want to go to PS 307 because it’s predominantly black,” said a spokeswoman from The Church of the Open Door, which many residents of the Farragut Houses attend. “And some of the black people don’t want this influx of white people coming in. To do it so shockingly and so quickly… let’s stop the present plan and fight for the time to create a new plan.”
The rezoning plan was proposed on September 2nd and was to be followed by two town-hall meetings, one at each school. The revised plan was to be presented on September 30 in hopes that the rezoning could be finalized before the end of the year. But some parents voiced concerns about the fact that P.S. 307 is an underperforming school. P.S. 8 third-graders had a pass rate on state standardized tests of 86% in 2012 and only 1% performed “below standards.” The pass rate at P.S. 307 was just 16%, with 37% of students below standards.
Leslie Brody of The Wall Street Journal writes that some parents from the two schools have a genuine interest in collaborating to find the best solution for students from both schools.
“We need to start talking to one another and stop looking down on one another,” said Benjamin Greene, co-president of the Parent Teachers Association at P.S. 307. “We’re all in this together.”
Community Education Council president David Goldsmith said the issue was complicated, but he also felt the bottom line was that both sides want the students to get positive results from the change, according to Lisa L. Colangelo, writing for the New York Daily News.