Part 1: REZONING OVERVIEW
In July 2015 the New York City Department of Education (DOE) notified the Community Education Council (CEC) for District 13 that it intended to develop a plan to rezone the catchment area for PS/MS 8, due to persistent overcrowding of the elementary school. In 2014-2015, PS 8 was approximately 135% overcapacity; PS 8 had a significant wait list for 2015-2016, and the DOE projects that overcrowding and wait lists will continue to increase if the zone size is not reduced.
On September 1st, the DOE’s Office of District Planning (ODP) presented a preliminary scenario for such a rezoning. The preliminary scenario contemplates reducing the size of the PS 8 zone, and increasing the size of the zone of PS 307, the neighboring elementary school. The ODP’s presentation included an overview of its methodology and a proposed map of new zone boundaries for PS 8 and PS 307, and can be found here: ODP Rezoning Scenario 9.1.15
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT & UPCOMING MEETINGS
1) Town hall meetings currently scheduled to gather feedback on the preliminary scenario:
- Wednesday, September 16, 6-7:30 pm: PS 307, 209 York St.
- Monday, September 21, 6:30 – 8 pm: PS 8, 37 Hicks St.
At each of these Town Halls, the ODP will give a short presentation of their proposed scenario. The rest of the time will be devoted to community members to provide comments and feedback on the plans.
2) CEC Calendar Meetings
- Wednesday, September 30th, 6:30 pm: PS 307, 209 York St.
The ODP will present the CEC and the public with an official proposal. The official proposal may contain revisions to the preliminary scenario presented on September 1, based on community feedback.
- CEC Meeting Tuesday, October 20, 6:30 pm: PS 8, 37 Hicks St.
- CEC Meeting Tuesday, November 17, 6:30 pm: PS 287, 50 Navy St.
Public sessions to discuss the rezoning will be incorporated into the Agenda of any Calendar meeting taking place prior to the CEC voting on the proposal, so that additional comments can continue to be voiced.
3) Throughout the rezoning process, all are encouraged to submit comments and questions using the Comment Form on the CEC website: http://cec13.org/hot-topics/rezoning/rezoning-comments/. Any comments sent through this form are forwarded to the NYC DOE ODP, District 13 Superintendent Barbara Freeman, and the CEC.
ZONING APPROVAL PROCESS AND TIMELINE
According to the ODP, the CEC must vote on a rezoning proposal by no later than mid-November, to allow the DOE sufficient time to prepare for 2016-2017 kindergarten admissions.
The DOE is required to present any proposed rezoning plan at a public CEC meeting. After public review and comment, when the District 13 Superintendent feels the re-zoning plan merits a CEC vote of approval, she will submit to the CEC a final proposal and request approval via letter and/or email notice. The public may continue to submit comments on the plan during this time period. The CEC must vote on the plan, at a public meeting, within 45 days of the date the plan is submitted by the District Superintendent. If there is no CEC regular Calendar meeting that meets this timeline, a Special Meeting will be called and announced to the public with at least 48 hours’ notice.
Should the rezoning plan submitted by the District Superintendent merit significant changes based on feedback received, that proposal would require a new formal presentation by ODP followed by and a new submission from the Superintendent requesting approval. A new 45-day “clock” for CEC approval would begin on the date the Superintendent submits the proposal for approval.
Part 2: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
I’m new to this rezoning discussion. What does it mean, and how did it begin?
Rezoning means the borderlines between one school zone and another are changed within a school district. Rezoning considerations arise as schools and communities evolve and experience school-age population growth or change.
PS 8 is significantly overcrowded in its building, with its capacity utilization at over 140%, and over 50 zoned children were wait-listed for kindergarten admission in the 2015-2016 year. The New York City Department of Education’s Office of District Planning (ODP) has informed the Community Education Council for District 13 (CEC13), the volunteer representative body of district school parents and guardians,that it believes PS 8’s zone needs to be reduced in order to address persistent overcrowding in the PS 8 zone.
Where does the process stand right now?
On September 1, 2015, the ODP presented to the CEC and the public a proposed rezoning scenario (see above for link). While they play different roles in this process, CEC13, ODP and the District Superintendent are collectively soliciting feedback on the proposed scenario, including through scheduled town hall meetings at PS 307 and PS 8. (See “OVERVIEW” section above for meeting dates.) The ODP will present a proposed rezoning scenario at the regular Calendar meeting scheduled for September 30, 2015 at PS 307.
Which schools and neighborhoods are affected by the current rezoning discussion?
The schools directly affected by the preliminary scenario are: PS/MS 8 (Robert Fulton), located at 37 Hicks St. in Brooklyn Heights and PS 307 (Daniel Hale Williams), located at 209 York St. in Vinegar Hill.
The neighborhoods affected, in addition to Brooklyn Heights and Vinegar Hill, include Farragut Housing, DUMBO, and parts of Downtown Brooklyn, such as Concord Village. (Please note also that PS 307 is currently a magnet school and also draws students from outside its geographic zone.)
CEC13 believes that MS 313, a middle school co-located with PS 307 at 209 York St., may also be affected by this scenario because PS 307 will require more space in its building if the PS 307 zone is increased. In addition, as CEC13 is charged with addressing the needs of the entire district, we will continually review proposals and feedback to understand whether and how any proposed significant changes at one school may affect other school communities in the district.
How will this affect my child for elementary school?
The current proposed scenario contemplates reducing the size of the PS 8 zone and increasing the size of the PS 307 zone. Families currently zoned for PS 307 would maintain their current priorities for admission to PS 307, following the order of priorities set out in Chancellor’s Regulation A-101. Some families currently zoned for PS 8 would be rezoned into the PS 307 zone, which would result in changes to admissions priorities for families in the DUMBO and Vinegar Hill neighborhoods. Please consult the proposed rezoning map to help determine which elementary school your residence would be zoned for should the proposed rezoning be approved. To determine which school you are presently zoned for, you may use http://schools.nyc.gov/schoolsearch/.
Children who are presently enrolled in grades kindergarten and above in schools whose zones are changed may remain in those schools regardless of where their residence falls in the rezoning. If a rezoning is approved, new applicants (without siblings who will be in grades 1-5 at the original zoned school at the start of September of the year the rezoning takes effect) for K-5 admission will have zoned entitlement to the zoned school in effect at the time of enrollment (i.e., September of the relevant school year) following the order of priorities set out in Chancellor’s Regulation A-101.
As part of the rezoning proposal, the CEC will be asked to make a determination as to whether new applicants for admission in September 2016 who have siblings who will be in grades 1-5 at the original zoned school at the start of the following school year in September but are rezoned out of the original zone may be “grandfathered” (i.e., continue to have priority to the original zoned school) or not. Allowing grandfathering would slow the pace at which overcrowding will be eased, and may result in wait lists in future years.
The CEC has also received public feedback requesting that a similar grandfathering be instituted for siblings of current PS 307 students, in part due to its status as a magnet school, which has attracted many young families from outside the zone. The CEC is researching this question.
In all other respects, admission to rezoned schools will follow the order of priorities set out in Chancellor’s Regulation A-101.
Will priorities for admission to MS 8 change?
In accordance with Chancellor’s Regulation A-101, 5th grade students attending PS 8 have a priority to attend MS 8 in the 6th grade admissions process if they rank MS 8 on their middle school choice application. Students who reside in the elementary school zone at the time of middle school choice applications have a priority to attend MS 8 for 6th grade if they are not already in attendance. Any students residing in the PS 8 zone at the time of middle school choice, but not already in attendance at PS 8, have second priority for any MS 8 seats remaining after all of the continuing PS 8 students have been accommodated. Students who do not attend PS 8 in the 5th grade and do not reside in the PS 8 zone at the time of middle school choice may apply for available MS 8 seats only after all of the continuing PS 8 students, and any students who reside in the zone but are not already in attendance at PS 8, have been accommodated in the application process.
Under the current proposal, there is no “grandfathering” priority for MS 8 seats for students who are not continuing PS 8 students and who are rezoned out of PS 8. The CEC is researching this issue.
Could PS 307 lose its Title I funding through such a rezoning?
A rezoning itself does not dictate the retention of Title I funding. However, it’s possible that changes in demographics in the PS 307 population may affect its future eligibility.
School-wide Title I funding is based on the socio-economic status of the students who attend that school. In Brooklyn district public schools, 60% or more students at a given school must qualify for free lunch in order for that school to retain such funding. PS 8 is currently not eligible for school-wide Title 1 funding, since fewer than 60% of its students are eligible for free lunch. PS 307 is currently eligible for school-wide Title 1 funding, with more than 60% of the students eligible for free lunch.
What is the role of the CEC in rezoning?
As described in Chancellor’s Regulation A-185, it is the CEC’s responsibility to approve or disapproving the formal rezoning proposal as submitted by the District Superintendent. The proposal must receive a majority vote of approval within 45 days after formal submission, or it is considered disapproved. The CEC also facilitates community input, feedback and responses from the DOE.
How is a rezoning plan developed?
Any rezoning plan is developed by the DOE’s Office of District Planning (ODP), on behalf of the District Superintendent, following conversations with key stakeholders including the Superintendent, leadership of the potentially affected schools, school and parent communities, and the CEC. The ODP presents proposals at public CEC meetings to gather further input from the affected communities. ODP may revise the plan by integrating the feedback gained through the community engagement process, and presented again for additional comment by ODP at a public meeting. You can read about the steps in this process here .
What is the timeline for the rezoning?
The ODP has stated that the rezoning must be approved by mid-November 2015 in order for the changes to be put into effect for kindergarten admissions for the 2016-2017 school year. The Superintendent is expected to submit the final proposal for CEC approval after consideration of community input and feedback received through the various channels of the community engagement process. When the District Superintendent feels that the ODP has developed a comprehensive plan which has taken this input into account, she will submit a final proposal to CEC13 for approval. CEC13 must then vote on this formal proposal at a public hearing within 45 days of submission. You can read more about the steps in this process here .
What happens if the CEC does not approve a rezoning?
It is currently unclear what actions the DOE would take if a rezoning is not approved for 2016-2017. It is, however, clear that the PS 8 building cannot accommodate all kindergarten students in its current zone, and therefore it is likely that the entering kindergarten class would be capped at a certain number with excess students assigned to overflow schools as happened for the current school year.
Why am I just hearing about this now? This seems like a very short time frame for decision-making.
As persistent and increasing overcrowding at PS 8 became apparent over the past few years, the prospect of reducing the size of the PS 8 zone has been raised as one of a number of potential options, including at several public meetings during 2014 and 2015. Although the CEC has long advocated for the DOE and electeds to collaborate with community members in developing a comprehensive plan for downtown Brooklyn to address – among many issues – the significant growth in residential housing; overcrowding in some schools and under-utilization in others; and district-wide inequities in schools, it was not until there was a substantial wait list for kindergarten admission in the late spring of 2015 that the DOE began to raise the potential of rezoning more definitively.
The ODP began meeting with the CEC in July regarding the development of a specific plan to rezone. The original hope was to have scenarios to present to the CEC within the next four weeks, and a draft proposal to share informally more widely shortly thereafter. That timeline was not met, and the CEC reviewed the preliminary scenario at the same time as the ODP presented it to the public, on September 1, 2015.
The CEC agrees that there are significant time pressures in connection with the rezoning proposal, and we are committed to working with the DOE, school communities and parents to ensure that families are properly engaged in the dialogue prior to approval of any rezoning plan.
How can I provide feedback on the rezoning proposal?
- Use the comment Form on the CEC website: http://cec13.org/hot-topics/rezoning/rezoning-comments/. Any comments sent through this form are forwarded to the NYC DOE ODP, District 13 Superintendent Barbara Freeman, and the CEC..
- Attend one of our local Town Hall meetings during September, which will be held at the two schools directly affected. Please see the first section for meeting times and locations.
- Attend the September 30th CEC Calendar Meeting where we expect ODP to present the proposal and gather community feedback. The meeting will be held at PS 307 and will begin at 6:30 pm.
How can I stay updated?
- Sign up for updates to the CEC13 website, by visiting our page at http://cec13.org/, Download the CEC calendar from there to get important meeting dates
- Email the CEC zoning committee directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Check in with your school’s SLT or PTA.
There are lots of new buildings going up and lots of new residents in Downtown Brooklyn. What is the long-term plan to ensure the equitable development and resourcing of existing schools, and to provide for new public school capacity when it is needed?
The CEC supports quality education for all students in existing schools as well as any schools that may be built in the future to accommodate increased populations of elementary and middle school children. To that end, in addition to CEC work, individual members of the CEC have been engaged in discussions with elected officials, school leaders, and multiple community stakeholders in District 13 and beyond to address building capacity in existing schools and new schools. This includes collaboration with the Downtown Brooklyn School Planning Working Group, whose primary focus is developing an equitable plan for Downtown Brooklyn families and schools, and other affected communities.
What is the overall role of a Community Education Council (CEC)? Is it part of the DOE?
CECs are public bodies which advocate for the school children in their district. CECs replaced district school boards when mayoral control of the DOE was put into place under then-Mayor Bloomberg.
Pursuant to New York State Education Law § 2590-e, CECs are composed of 11 voting members: nine parents or guardians of District school children who are elected to serve, and two additional members appointed by the Borough Presidents. CECs are elected biannually by the officers of district PTAs/PTOS/PAs.
CECs are independent of the DOE. They sit across the table from the DOE to represent parents, families and school communities. All CEC members are volunteers.
New York City’s CECs and Citywide Education Councils are charged with promoting student achievement, advising and commenting on educational policies, and providing input to the Chancellor and the Panel for Educational Policy on matters of concern to the District. The powers and duties of CECs are spelled out in NYS Education Law §2590-e; those of Citywide Councils can be found in §2590-b.
The responsibilities of CEC members include:
- Decision-making regarding zoning lines;
- Reviewing the district’s educational programs and assessing their effect on student achievement;
- Serving as liaisons to district schools, and providing assistance;
- Holding public hearings on the district’s annual capacity plans and submitting to the Chancellor a CEC-approved plan based on enrollment/utilization data for each school in the district;
- Holding joint public hearings with the chancellor (or designee) for any proposed school closing or significant change in school utilization;
- Preparing a district report card and ensuring its public distribution; and
- Submitting an annual evaluation of the superintendent to the Chancellor, and consulting on the selection of the community superintendent.
For more information on the composition of the CEC, or how you can become part of the CEC, please visit the following website: http://schools.nyc.gov/Offices/CEC/default.htm