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Parents Urge DOE to Address Overcrowding at Brooklyn Heights School

By Nikhita Venugopal | November 21, 2014 3:24pm
 P.S. 8 The Robert Fulton School located at 37 Hicks St. in Brooklyn Heights.
P.S. 8 The Robert Fulton School located at 37 Hicks St. in Brooklyn Heights.
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BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — A popular Brooklyn Heights elementary school is facing a serious overcrowding problem that might shut out prospective students in the zone, parents say.  

Last year, P.S. 8 The Robert Fulton School, located at 37 Hicks St., was at nearly 144 percent of its capacity. It had 702 students before its pre-K program was eliminated — 214 students above the Department of Education's "Blue Book" target capacity. 

If enrollment continues unchanged, the school — which currently has 703 K to 5 students and 28 classrooms — will be nearly 350 students over capacity by 2018, according to a presentation from PTA co-presidents Kim Glickman and Ansley Samson, who are calling for more elementary school seats in the community.

Dozens of current and prospective P.S. 8 parents packed the pews of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights Thursday night to discuss the issue with representatives from the Department of Education and elected officials.

Not only has overcrowding resulted in a lack of space in specialty classrooms for drama and dance, it could also lead to an increase in class sizes, the PTA said.

“We do not believe children get quality education when there are 32 children in the classroom,” Glickman said.

To combat overcrowding in the past, an additional annex that included seven new classrooms was built at P.S. 8, and its sought-after pre-K program was recently cut to make more room for elementary school classes.

Some new solutions were broached at the meeting, including limiting kindergarten enrollment next year to only five classrooms instead of six.

The DOE will not make a decision regarding limited enrollment until after kindergarten registration closes next spring, but officials at the meeting said they would consider all options going forward.

Another factor that could hasten overcrowding in the school district is the surge of residential development in P.S. 8’s zone, which one Downtown Brooklyn group estimated would result in roughly 3,750 new units built between 2004 and 2017.

That number does not include high-rises still in planning stages, including the towers at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park and the development proposed for the Brooklyn Heights’ public library site.

In written petitions to the DOE, Glickman and Samson urged officials to address the issue and consider the school zone’s capacity before approving new residential buildings.

“The 37 Hicks Street building lacks the capacity to serve our rapidly growing neighborhood population,” they wrote.

David Goldsmith, president of District 13’s Community Education Council and a former P.S. 8 parent, called for a district-wide effort in dealing with the problem but urged parents to consider alternative schools in the district.

“We’re very optimistic that there are solutions for the P.S. 8 community,” he said. “I think everything should be on the table.”

The Department of Education did not respond to further request for comment.