PARK SLOPE — Angry parents sounded off about a proposal to rezone several Park Slope schools Monday night, saying the plan is tearing apart the neighborhood and dashing the hopes of families intent on sending their children to some of Brooklyn's most coveted schools.
"We feel our community is being ripped apart," a mom at P.S. 39 said at a Monday night town hall meeting on education issues hosted by City Councilman Brad Lander at M.S. 51.
Though the forum included break-out groups on topics like school food, the bulk of the audience wanted to voice opinions about a Department of Education proposal to shrink the zones for P.S. 321, P.S. 107, and P.S. 39, enlarge P.S. 10's zone, and create a new school in the former St. Thomas Aquinas school building on Fourth Avenue.
Parents peppered a DOE representative at the meeting with questions about why some blocks had been carved out of schools zones "seemingly at random."
Others sharply criticized the DOE for a policy that allows families to continue sending children to schools — including crowded P.S. 321 — even after they've moved out of the zone.
"We know that P.S. 321 is a very popular school — I'm interested in finding out what kind of investigative work has been done to find out who actually lives in that zone," said a mom to a loud round of applause.
She added that she's lived in the P.S. 321 zone for 19 years and is about to be "kicked out," while students who live outside the zone — and sometimes use fake addresses — will be allowed to attend.
Parents booed as a DOE representative explained that school leaders at P.S. 321 verify student addresses.
Some parents are hoping to take their case beyond public meetings like the one on Monday night. Opponents of the rezoning have formed a group called the Coalition of Residents for Fair Rezoning, complete with a website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.
The group is gathering signatures in hopes of convincing the DOE to stop or significantly alter the rezoning. They say the plan is "discriminatory," and that it will slash property values while not actually solving the over-crowding problem that spurred the rezoning proposal.
"The goal is to come up with a better solution and convince DOE and [the District 15 Community Education Council] that there are plenty of phenomenal alternatives that need to be considered, and that this needs to be rejected," said Leslie Uretsky, one of the group's leaders, a mom who would be pushed out of the P.S. 321 zone.
Uretsky has analyzed census data that she says shows the most socioeconomically and racially diverse blocks in P.S. 321's zone are being pushed into the zone for the new school at the St. Thomas Aquinas building.
The coalition wants DOE to consider creating an early childhood center instead of a K-5 school at the St. Thomas Aquinas building, or turning it into a new magnet or themed school.
Uretsky said parents in the coalition also want the DOE to drop the policy allowing families who don't live in the P.S. 321 zone to send their kids there, and to crackdown on households that gain entry to the school with fake addresses.
"That's the real reason for overcrowding," Uretsky said. "People do whatever they need to do to get their kid enrolled."