Last week, we attended a meeting held by the P.S. 8 PTA to address the current and growing overcrowding problem at the school, located in Brooklyn Heights. Since becoming a magnet school in 2004, it has increased in popularity among families in Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn. However the school is currently at 142% capacity, and this is after building an annex a few years back. With thousands more new residential units headed for the school zone, more families staying put in Brooklyn (instead of leaving for the suburbs), and an increased birth rate, the problem at the school will become even worse in the coming years. They are facing increased class sizes (32 per class!) and the real possibility of dropping a kindergarten class and creating a wait list for admission. Needless to say, the prospect of not being able to get into their zoned school made many of the hundreds of attendees of the meeting very concerned.
There were several politicians and reps from the DOE in attendance to start a dialogue about what to do next –however there are no easy solutions. The crisis at P.S. 8 was caused by the DOE not responding fast enough to shifts and growth in population in our part of Brooklyn. Since the lead time for adding new seats is 5-10 years, there is no way they are going to catch up anytime soon. There are four times as many residential units being built in Downtown Brooklyn (16,500+) than there are in the Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO neighborhoods that led to overcrowding at P.S. 8. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that the current condition at P.S. 8 will be the fate of other schools in our area like P.S. 261 (Boerum Hill), P.S. 20 (Fort Greene) and P.S. 287 (Vinegar Hill) if a new school isn’t built in Downtown Brooklyn soon.
There is funding in the current DOE capital plan for a new 757 seat school (tentatively slated for Atlantic Yards), but maybe that school should be located somewhere in DoBro closer to Brooklyn Heights? Any new school seats built to address the overcrowding issue in Brooklyn Heights / DUMBO will likely mean a change in the school zone anyway. Everyone agrees that this issue needs to be addressed at a district-wide level, which means the solutions to the current overcrowding problem at P.S. 8 and the future overcrowding problem at other schools are one and the same: BUILD A NEW SCHOOL IN DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN NOW! Whether or not it’s your school, please sign the petition to encourage the DOE to act on the problem at P.S. 8.