Read Brownstoner's interview with School's Chancellor Joel Klein with a #2 pencil in your teeth to prevent dental abrasion.
Joel says, "The current Five-Year Capital Plan, which allocates funding for school construction projects, does not currently include new building construction in district 13 because district 13 overall is enrolled below the total district-wide capacity, even taking into account additional planned residential units. That said, there are some individual district 13 schools whose enrollment is over capacity. In the next Five-Year Plan, which we will put out in November and which begins in July 2009, we plan to look at the potential need for school construction based on demographic patterns within districts and the accessibility of existing schools. This will be a first: we haven’t previously drilled down below the district level."
More teeth references! Drill Joel, DRILL. The whole story is in the demographic patterns not within the weirdly shaped District numbers as a whole. Being in a school where the DOE determined "capacity" was like watching an exercise in Alice in Wonderland logic. They go by the "Blue Book" instead of by the reality. From the Comptrollers Report, "In addition, the current Blue Book target capacity for middle schools assumes that standard classrooms (i.e., not art rooms, computer rooms, and the like) are in use for seven periods a day. However, teachers are required to teach for only five periods a day. Using each room for all seven periods thus would require an extremely complex scheduling process. It also means that teachers would have to use the teachers’ lounge for preparation, if one exists. In reality, therefore, it seems likely that many middle school classrooms are actually in use for only five periods a day, which means that the utilization figures reported in the Blue Book for middle schools are understated as a result of this factor as well. "
Joel says, "It takes about 18-24 months to build a new school, depending on the scope of work; this doesn’t include identifying a site and designing the building. The timing for construction is established by criteria in the Capital Plan. We don’t “wait” to build until schools are overcrowded, at any rate." Hello, "321"! When are the families that bought into high rises on 4th Ave. in the 321 zone going to find out whether there is room for them? I suspect it will be on the first day of kindergarten. Yes, there are seats in District 15, but not in the schools that people paid dearly to be in.
From the Comptroller, "Much of the new residential construction is on the up-zoned Fourth Avenue. Among the Fourth Avenue projects that will impact PS 39, PS 321, and PS 124:
PS 39 will serve students from the 54-unit Argyle Park Slope, now under construction between 6th and 7th Streets. Inside Schools observers wrote: “Another space challenge: there is no gym or auditorium. PS 39 was using facilities at a community center across the street, but that was in the process of being sold at the time of our visit. Gym teachers teach lessons in the classrooms. The building was constructed without a cafeteria.” PS 321 will serve children from the 68-unit Crest condominiums at 2nd Street; the 41-unit building at Carroll Street; the 151-unit Novo Park Slope at 5th Street, and the 113-unit residential building at 343 Fourth Avenue. Observers from Inside Schools called PS 321 a “large, overcrowded school.” Yet,
applying the housing unit-to-public school student ratios in the CEQR Manual for high-income
Brooklyn units, these developments can be expected to generate an additional 100 students for PS 321. PS 124 will be impacted by the completion of 500 Fourth Avenue, a 133-unit building under construction between 12th and 13th Streets, and The Vue, a 45-unit condominium at East 16th Street. Inside Schools observers noted, regarding PS 124: “While the school is pleasant and well-maintained, it has a cramped cafeteria and a small room that barely makes do as the gym and auditorium.” Given the excellent academic reputations of most Park Slope schools, these new buildings could attract a significant number of families with at least one elementary school-age child. The proposed 630-seat elementary school, which a SCA official told Comptroller staff will be sited in the “northwestern Park Slope area,” should provide some much-needed new capacity. However, design work for the new school is not
expected to start until June 2008 and the school is not expected to be completed until November 2010, according to the February 2008 proposed Capital Plan Amendment."
Joel says, "families enroll their children in charter schools entirely by choice — in other words, students are never “zoned” to attend a charter school. This means that charter schools must compete with other schools for students and must educate students well in order to continue operating." This is true, but the families that go out of their way to seek out and apply for the lottery in a Charter School are also self selecting. They have to be informed and actively invested in their children's education. If they had the option of a quality zoned school I wonder if the Charter Schools would be so popular.
Check out Brownstoners report on new Charter schools opening in Brooklyn.
NYC Comptroller, William Thompson's Policy Report "Growing Pains" is fascinating reading (No, REALLY, and not just in a Dentist's Office - to stay with the metaphor) It was actually so thrilling for me to read the truth coming from a government agency that I wanted to get it printed and hand it out on street corners. Please, please take a look at it.
"A number of rapidly expanding communities now—or in the next few years—will suffer from
overcrowded elementary and middle schools, notwithstanding the school capacity expansion projects in the 2005-09 Capital Plan. Among these communities are:
Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO. The 2005-09 Capital Plan provides for no new capacity in Brooklyn’s CSD 13, even though over 3,000 housing units are under construction or were recently completed in the PS 287 school zone alone; PS 287 had space for only 89 additional students in October 2006. PS 8 serves DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, where hundreds of residential units were recently completed or are under construction. According to the DOE Blue Book, PS 8 was at 118 percent of capacity in October 2006.
There are neighborhoods where, although population is growing more slowly, elementary and
middle schools are overcrowded, DOE projects that the CSD’s enrollment will increase, and the
2005-09 Capital Plan provides too few seats or none at all. Among these are:
Sunset Park. Although four Sunset Park elementary schools exceeded capacity and the fifth was at 95 percent, no new elementary school seats have been proposed for this community. Sunset Park is in CSD 15, which is one of only four CSDs that the Grier Partnership projects will gain enrollment by 2015.
I could keep quoting from it all day long. This report was issued in May and yet the Chancellor has the audacity to tell Brownstoner's readers that there are enough seats because the DOE is counting by Districts. This is fraud. Read it and then call your City Council person and Betsy Gotbaum's office and demand answers.
While you are at fight the budget cuts.