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Many Fort Greene Elementary Schools Forced to Share Buildings

By Janet Upadhye | February 11, 2013 6:39am

FORT GREENE — Fort Greene and Clinton Hill are increasingly attractive for young families, but school space is limited — which means neighborhood schools are often co-located.

At P.S. 287 on Navy Street, students have seen a revolving door of other programs sharing their space.

Since 2004, both Khalil Gibran International Academy and The Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice have come and gone. Most recently, Community Roots Charter School moved its middle-schoolers into the building, causing an outcry among some parents who felt P.S. 287 was suffering from the constant changes.

“What about us?” said Edgardo Rivera, president of the P.S. 287 PTA, at a public hearing about the co-location. “What about this community and this school?”

And P.S. 287 is not alone in having to share.

Community Partnership Charter School is housed on the third floor of P.S. 270, and P.S. 46 shares a building with Fort Greene Preparatory Academy. P.S. 67 Charles A. Dorsey, which has a rich history as the first Brooklyn school for African-American students, shares space with Community Roots Charter School's elementary classes. And P.S. 20, which offers an ultramodern Apple computer lab, shares its building with the Urban Assembly Academy of Arts and Letters.

Each shared space arrangement has left some parents unhappy, worried that they will lose access to already-limited resources, and they have voiced their concerns at protests and public hearings, as well as through local elected officials.

But others see advantages for the home schools in each building.

P.S. 67 students get access to Community Roots' after-school urban farming program, and P.S. 20 principal Lena Barbera has worked with Arts and Letters to create a rooftop greenhouse and amphitheater, as well as to renovate the shared schoolyard, according to Insideschools.

Barbera is proud of the space the two schools have created.

“We are an amazing, nurturing, warm and creative environment,” she said with her arms around two former students who had come back to visit. “We love our children.”

Some parents agreed that despite the co-location at P.S. 20, the school is flourishing.

“They do a lot of hands-on activities with the kids,” said parent Yvette Zimmerman. “My 4-year-old knows how to read notes in music — that is quite advanced for pre-kindergarten.”

Here are some of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill's noteworthy public elementary schools:

P.S. 67, Charles A. Dorsey, 51 Saint Edwards St.    

Located in the middle of the Ingersoll Houses in Fort Greene, this school was the first African-American school in the country. According to Insideschools, P.S. 67 has a history of low attendance. And parents say classes are overcrowded with an average of 32 kids per classroom.

But one grandmother says the school is improving.

“It is definitely getting better,” said Juanita Mallory, whose grandchild attends the school. “[The] kids are learning to read and write and getting more after-school activity opportunities.”

On a recent weekday, the school's basketball team, The Legends, were motivated by their coach to play hard and have fun. The co-ed teammates wore uniforms proudly as they ran through drills, and recently got a visit from the Brooklyn Nets.

“We always win,” said one young player.

Co-location: P.S. 67 shares space with Community Roots Charter School.

P.S. 287, Bailey K. Ashford, 50 Navy St.

Located across the street from newly renovated Commodore Barry Park in Fort Greene, P.S. 287 is housed in a spacious building. The school has earned good grades on the Department of Education's progress reports, receiving an A and two B’s from 2008 to 2011, but most recently the school’s scores dropped to a C.

But P.S. 287 has big plans for the future, including building a science research lab, providing foreign language instruction, and expanding the arts program to include film, photography, dance and music.

Co-location: P.S. 287 Bailey K. Ashford shares space with Community Roots Charter School.

P.S. 11, Purvis J. Behan, 419 Waverly Ave.  

P.S. 11 “is one of the strongest elementary schools in District 13,” according to Insideschools, with “an energetic and popular principal, a strong and creative teaching staff, and a hyper-involved parent body.”

The Waverly Avenue school does not share space with another school and boasts an extensive after-school program that includes basket weaving, photography, guitar, a Lego league and yoga. The cost of activities ranges from $150 to $300 per semester. A limited number of scholarships are available.

The school also has partnerships with several community-based groups offering daytime activities such as hatching chicks, creating a "farmbox," and cooking and dancing.

P.S. 20, Clinton, Hill, 225 Adelphi St.

The Clinton Hill School is staging a major comeback after the 2009 arrest of its former principal, Sean Keaton, charged with assaulting a teacher. Current Principal Lena Barbera is a dynamic go-getter, according to several parents and teachers.

“The kids lover her,” said teacher Iris Montoya. “After they graduate they still come back to see her."

Barbera has instituted a host of new arts-based programs and is excited for the future of the school. 

“We are this neighborhood’s best kept secret,” she said.

Co-location: P.S. 20 Clinton Hill shares space with The Urban Assembly Academy of Arts and Letters.

P.S. 270, Johann DeKalb, 241 Emerson Pl.

P.S. 270 is a small school located near Pratt University in Clinton Hill. With only two classes per grade and 200 students, the school boasts a tight-knit community.

“All of the teachers know my son’s name,” said parent Amy HK. “In fact, the whole school knows each other.”

While some parents say the school is lacking in arts and music instruction, they add that kids enjoy the family-like atmosphere at the school.

Resources are limited, but the school finds ways to integrate extracurriculars into the day, such as designing and painting a mural for Black History Month.

Co-location: P.S. 270 Johann DeKalb shares space with Community Partnership Charter School.

P.S. 46, Edward C. Blum, 100 Clermont Ave.

Located on a residential block just off of Myrtle Avenue, P.S. 46 is known for its dual-language program. According to its website, 20 percent of the current students are English-language learners, and kindergarten and first-grade classes consist of students who speak different languages and are taught in both. Eventually the dual-language English and Spanish program will expand to all grades. According to Insideschools, there are two art teachers on staff who guarantee weekly art classes for every student.

Co-location: P.S. 46 shares a building with middle school Fort Greene Preparatory Academy.