The City Council recently approved the School Construction Authority’s proposal to locate a 616-seat school facility in the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park development site in Prospect Heights within in District 13. The school facility is expected to be situated in an as-yet unconstructed residential building known as B15 on the east side of 6th Avenue between Dean and Pacific Streets. The project is unusual in that it will be built by the residential developer rather than the SCA. The developer currently expects to break ground in the summer of 2016, and the school facility is expected to open for occupancy in September 2018.
According to the SCA, the school facility will be constructed so that it could be used for students in any grades between pre-kindergarten and eighth grade. The DOE has not yet proposed how the space will be used.
The CEC has co-sponsored an initiative calling on the DOE to configure the space as a dedicated middle school, as outlined in a vision we are calling “MS OneBrooklyn.” MS OneBrooklyn would be a comprehensive, inclusive and well-integrated middle school, accessible to all District 13 students through middle school choice. The initiative is based on the projected need for additional middle school capacity in this area of the District, the need to realign currently disjointed elementary school and middle school capacity to better serve all of our students, and to provide increased options as one component of District-wide middle school quality improvement efforts.
We are joined in this initiative by Community Board 8, Community Board 6, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, our elected officials, and representatives of the Parent Teacher Organizations at PS 9, PS 11, PS 20 and other District 13 elementary schools. Prominent computer science, arts and culture, and dual language organizations have signed letters supporting our vision.
The DOE alone will determine what grades the school facility will serve (middle school, elementary school, or a combination of both), but whether the DOE will be required to seek the CEC and the community’s formal input or other approval will depend on the exact configuration that it proposes.
If the DOE proposes to use the school facility to re-site one or more existing schools, the DOE will be required to seek approval from the Panel for Education Policy and to follow the process outlined in Chancellor’s Regulation A-190, and the CEC will not be empowered to approve or disapprove the proposal. If the DOE proposes to use the school facility as a zoned elementary or middle school, the DOE will be required to follow the process outlined in Chancellor’s Regulation A-185 and seek approval from the CEC to change existing zone lines in order to develop the new zone. However, if the DOE chooses to use the school facility as a new unzoned middle or elementary school, or to co-locate one or more such schools, then the DOE is not required to seek any external approvals.
Under current practices, the DOE often does not announce or propose new or changed school utilizations or re-zonings until the academic year immediately prior to the proposed implementation year. This does not allow for sufficient or meaningful collaboration to ensure that our public schools are developed to meet the needs of our District, and often deprives families of crucial information they need to make important school choices. While there has been some movement by the DOE toward a more collaborative planning process for school utilization and design, announcements in September 2015 concerning rezoning and re-siting schools in District 13 show that community members and the CEC must continue to advocate for better and more timely involvement in central decision-making about our schools.
If you agree with the MS OneBrooklyn vision, please help our petition reach 1500 signatures by signing your name. And check back here for updates about the school facility at Pacific Park and other ways you can join the conversation in the weeks and months to come.