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Parents Search for Smaller Classes in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens

By Heather Holland | February 11, 2013 6:45am

CARROLL GARDENS — As coveted elementary schools in Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill become increasingly overcrowded, more parents are turning to less well-known schools that have smaller class sizes, local education leaders say.

Jim Devor, president of the District 15 Community Education Council, said that while P.S. 29 on Henry Street and P.S. 58 on Smith Street are perennially popular among parents, they have grown crowded, resulting in large class sizes.

That has led some parents seeking more individual attention for their kids to turn to P.S. 32, a smaller school on Hoyt Street zoned for students living in Carroll Gardens and parts of Gowanus, Devor said.

“There’s an imbalance of utilization between P.S. 58 and P.S. 32,” Devor said. “[P.S. 58] is never going to revert back to 22 kids [per class], but the class sizes at P.S. 32 are at a more manageable level.”

At P.S. 32, the school's largest class has 18 students, and the smallest has a mere 10 students. Most classes have two teachers, according to a Department of Education class-size report for the 2011-2012 school year.

In contrast, there are 20 to 30 students per class at P.S. 29 and P.S. 58, the DOE report said.

In addition, P.S. 32 offered a gifted and talented program for the first time last year, with the hope of drawing more students from outside its zone.

“Teachers are sensitive, adapting and very focused, which is a great thing for our kids,” said Larissa Bailiff, a P.S. 32 parent.

Here are some of Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill's noteworthy public elementary schools:

P.S. 58, The Carroll School, 330 Smith St.

P.S. 58’s active PTA and dual-language program make this school a favorite among parents. Since the school welcomed Giselle McGee as the new principal in 2006, school enrollment has nearly doubled. The school had 816 students enrolled in the 2011-2012 school year, according to the school's progress report.

The school’s dual-language program offers students a chance to become fluent in French. Each grade has two dual-language classes and students are taught in English for half the class and in French for the other half. Students are taught to write, read and speak in both languages. P.S. 58 is a zoned school, though native French speakers from outside the zone may attend.

P.S. 29, John M. Harrigan, 425 Henry St.

P.S. 29, serving students living in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, prides itself on its strong arts and science programs and active PTA, parents say.

The school’s PTA raked in more than $850,000 in revenue in 2010, according to the PTA’s filings. The extra funds were put toward the school’s arts programs, supplies and even paid for assistant teachers, according to a review by Insideschools. The school’s arts and enrichment program includes collaboration with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and a half year of chess instruction was introduced for grades two and three.

The school is currently under construction for asbestos removal, which mostly takes place during after-school hours, and the work is expected to be completed by July 2013, said Ronda Keyser, co-president of the school's PTA.

P.S. 32, Samuel Mills Sprole, 317 Hoyt St.

P.S. 32 is an ideal pick for parents championing small class sizes and a lot of one-on-one attention, Devor said.

Nearly every class has two teachers, and most are certified in special education, according to a review by Insideschools. Though it’s a small school, it has increasingly become popular for its diverse programs, including a new basketball team for fourth and fifth graders and a student-led garden.

It launched a gifted and talented program last fall, and the school piloted a program called ASD Nest, dedicated to providing time for high-functioning students with autism to learn alongside general education students, said Bailiff, a P.S. 32 parent.

P.S. 32 shares a building with M.S. 442, New Horizons.

P.S. 261, Philip Livingston, 314 Pacific St.

This Boerum Hill school advocates interactive learning over a focus on tests, said Beau Ranheim, president of the school’s PTA.

Recently, representatives of the Trust for Public Land worked with fourth and fifth-graders on redesigning the school's playground, while discussing design techniques that effectively capture storm water. In addition, the school opened a new science lab this year for third- through fifth- graders, featuring new equipment and live animals.

The after-school program includes karate, yoga, kickboxing and puppet making, Ranheim said.

In 2010-2011, the school got an F in the student progress category of its progress report, which measures positive or negative changes in students' state exam scores, and the school received a grade C overall. In the last school year, scores improved, and the school raised its overall grade to an A.

P.S. 146, The Brooklyn New School, 610 Henry St.

Also called Brooklyn New School, P.S. 146 is a magnet school, which means admission isn’t limited by a school zone. The school champions diversity, and, for that reason, it limits the number of students drawn from each district. For instance, only 15 percent of admitted students come from District 15, Devor said.

Parents favor P.S. 146 for its seasoned teachers, strong PTA and hands-on learning approach, said Alexis Quy, a parent. One year, third-graders studying China took a field trip to a Chinese scholars garden and created replicas of the garden while incorporating examples of yin and yang, Quy said.

Brooklyn New School shares a building with M.S. 448, Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies.

Admission is by lottery only, although siblings of current students will be admitted if there’s room.