Tuesday evening, September 24th, the NYC Department of Education will present two possible plans for school rezoning and admissions changes to help address overcrowding and segregation in District 15 elementary schools in Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and Red Hook. 

Beginning next school year, PS 32 in Gowanus will be able to accommodate over 400 new students as the result of an expansion of their building. This expansion, along with the overcrowding at nearby schools P.S. 29 and P.S. 58, present an opportunity to take an equity and integration lens to school admissions in our community. 

The schools that may be affected include P.S. 15, P.S. 29, P.S. 32, P.S. 38, P.S. 58, P.S. 261, and P.S. 676 (which is “Subdistrict 3” of Community School District 15). These new admission policies would apply only to future students. Nothing will change for students currently enrolled in grades K-5 in one of these schools, and both plans would allow for younger siblings of currently enrolled students to go to the same school as their older siblings. 

Tuesday’s meeting is the next step in a robust public process that kicked off last spring. Starting from the goals of reducing school overcrowding and meeting the needs of the growing number of families in our community, and from the perspective that integrated schools are both necessary to address decades of inequality and desirable learning environments for all of our children, the Department of Education has led a thoughtful process to engage families in discussions of how best to get there. 

The DOE is weighing two proposals, both of which would be significant steps towards more integrated schools. These two proposals will be presented at a meeting of the Community Education Council on September 24, 6:30 to 8:30 PM at P.S. 32 (317 Hoyt Street, enter at Union St.). Refreshments and childcare will be provided.

One plan would redraw the geographic school zones, drawing more students into the expanded PS 32 to alleviate overcrowding at the nearby schools, with an emphasis on bringing more demographic balance to the new zone map. 

The other plan would eliminate zones all together within these 7 schools in D15’s Subdistrict 3, instead opting for a “controlled choice” system where parents rank their top schools (similar to the new admissions system for D15 middle schools). 

Both options would include setting aside 25 to 35% of seats for students who are learning English as a new language, live in temporary housing, or qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, so that each school would roughly match the overall percentage these students represent of the overall Subdistrict 3. 

At the Community Education Council meeting on Sept. 24, the DOE’s Office of District Planning will present a more detailed ‎explanation of each proposal, and the projected impact and structure of both options, including the long requested map with the redrawn zoning lines. This is an opportunity to get your questions answered (on important issues like transportation!) and to provide feedback on the two potential plans.  

You can read more about the process and the potential plans in Chalkbeat, and look at the earlier presentation that the DOE made of the proposals at community meetings back in June. 

I encourage current and future parents in this portion of District 15 to attend the meeting on Tuesday to learn more about the plans and provide feedback. I also hope you will share this notice with your neighbors, as the parents whose children are not yet school-aged are the  most likely to be impacted by these changes, but they are often less aware of CEC and other Department of Education meetings. 

I know that proposed changes to school admissions can cause families a lot of anxiety. And it’s no secret that conversations about school integration are fraught. But I continue to be proud that our community is leaning forward into hard but necessary conversations about what we can do to insure high-quality, integrated, public education, for all our kids. 

My hope is that this process will continue to be as open, transparent, and participatory as possible, to ensure that everyone’s questions are answered and feedback is heard. That’s the right way to make decisions — especially the hard ones. 

With gratitude for this community, and a commitment to our democratic values, as always,