PROSPECT HEIGHTS — It’s official: a middle school is coming to Atlantic Yards.
All 616 seats at a public school planned within the Prospect Heights mega-development, now named Pacific Park, will be dedicated to middle school students, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a surprise announcement Thursday morning.
The education leader broke the news during a talk at the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, multiple people in attendance said. The Department of Education confirmed the choice in a statement Thursday, saying “this project is moving forward as a middle school.”
"The new school will directly address needs voiced by the community and there will be ongoing opportunities for public discourse as we move forward with plans,” said DOE spokeswoman Toya Holness.
The chancellor announced the decision at the "Brooklyn Newsmakers" event in response to a question from Gib Veconi, a leader of M.S. OneBrooklyn, the community group that has been pushing for months for the school planned at 664 Pacific St. to be a dedicated middle school, instead of the originally planned K-through-8.
Veconi said those who had lobbied for a middle school in District 13 were “pleasantly surprised” by the chancellor’s decision and are excited to be a part of the planning process.
“Making a commitment at this point while there’s still an opportunity to affect the design of the school itself is what’s really critical,” he said.
Already, there is talk of including STEM-based classes or a dual-language program at the new school, according to Maggie Spillane, a parent of two students at the nearby P.S. 9 elementary school and member of the Community Education Council for District 13.
She said she hopes the middle school will provide the "economies of scale" necessary to bring in specialized programming for middle schoolers not possible at a K-through-8 school.
“Whatever it turns out to be … I think the most important part is that the reality approaches the vision in a way that respects community input," she said.
The 100,000-square-foot school will be part of a 26-story tower just now beginning construction on Sixth Avenue between Pacific and Dean streets in Prospect Heights.
The developer of the tower, Greenland Forest City Partners, agreed to build the school as part of state-mandated environmental agreements made previously for the 22-acre development.
Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, who represents parts of District 13 in Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights, said she was "delighted" with the news about the middle school while remaining wary that the 616 seats are "likely not going to be enough" for a neighborhood that had been growing well before the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park complex got underway.
“The school is there because of Atlantic Yards being built and that being a quote unquote mitigation for the community. But the need [for more middle school seats] is already apparent even without the housing that is expected at Atlantic Yards," she said. “That need will only grow.”
A representative of the developers, Ashley Cotton of GFCP, said the company "looks forward to delivering a new state-of-the-art public middle school in the heart of Pacific Park."
"This 600-seat school will be a tremendous community anchor for the thousands of families living in Pacific Park and their neighbors from across District 13," she said in a statement.
The developers first announced the school would be sited at the tower, known previously as "B15" within the complex, last May.