VINEGAR HILL — The students of P.S. 307 began the school year with a lot of hugs and smiles, a few nervous tears and plenty of excitement for new classes, friends and teachers.
"It's starting off great," said Ben Green, who was PTA co-president during the school's recent rezoning. "We're moving in the right direction."
The hopeful scene Thursday seemed a world away from the drama surrounding the school that unfolded a year ago as the Department of Education's contentious rezoning plan for two Brooklyn schools — P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights and P.S. 307 — sparked anger and frustration from parents and community leaders.
The demographics of the two schools fueled the debate as critics said the proposal favored the predominantly white P.S. 8 community over P.S. 307's mostly black and Hispanic student population, many of whom live in the nearby Farragut Houses.
Under the plan, which was approved in January, the DOE sought to move blocks of DUMBO out of P.S. 8's zone in hopes of easing severe overcrowding at the popular school. Families in those parts of the neighborhood would instead be zoned for P.S. 307, a magnet that is under-enrolled.
This year, P.S. 307 has increased its staffing and has more room in its building at 209 York St. after M.S. 313 was moved to a brand new building on Dock Street in DUMBO, said Green, who also serves on an advisory council for P.S. 307.
Green, whose daughter started third grade this year, voted against the rezoning back in January. One of his main reasons, he said this week, was failure to keep parents informed from the get-go.
Other parents have echoed a similar complaint, not just during the rezoning but even before the start of the new year.
"We never got a welcome letter," said mom Laura Gunther, who had to call the school for details of the first day. "They need to get a lot better about communicatiing."
Gunther, who lives in DUMBO, was zoned for P.S. 8 before the rezoning but decided to send her son to P.S. 307 after pre-K was cut at the Brooklyn Heights school.
"Frankly I think it's better here [at P.S. 307]," she said. "They're constantly learning all these great things."
The school is already reportedly seeing a positive outcome from the rezoning as kindergarten enrollment increased from 18 to 56 students, according to Politico New York. Increases in enrollment lead to more funding at public schools.
But some P.S. 307 parents remain skeptical of the rezoning.
"Only time will tell," said mom Lisa Hanes.
Faraji Hannah Jones, a former PTA president whose daughter started first grade, said he was looking forward to more conversation between parents and school leaders, particularly on the subject of integration.
"It's so important to integrate the school," he said, "but not at the cost of the African American and Latino community."