Schools in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park could see their attendance zones shift as the city builds new schools in the neighborhood, where overcrowding has been a persistent issue.
District 15 Superintendent Anita Skop wrote in a recent letter to parent leaders that she would follow a similar community engagement process as in the northwest corner of the district, where a separate plan to redraw school boundaries was recently put on hold as more community feedback is sought.
The local Community Education Council, a parent body which must vote to approve rezoning proposals, will discuss the district’s plans at a Nov. 19 meeting.
Three schools are slated to open in Sunset Park, according to documents from the construction authority. A 330-seat building for pre-K through fifth grade is expected to be completed in fall 2022 at 4302 Fourth Ave., the site of a landmarked former police station. The other two schools are also planned to serve pre-K through fifth grade. They are still in the design phase, with a 400-seat building planned at 836-841 Fifth Ave., and another 300 seats in the pipeline at 4513 Eighth Ave.
Skop recently told education council members that the city intends to use a model called Participatory Action Research to move the Sunset Park planning forward. That’s the same approach the city pledged to use for its rezoning plans in Red Hook, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, and Cobble Hill, after advocates said families in mostly low-income neighborhoods hadn’t been properly engaged.
“We are working in partnership with the Sunset Park community to develop a rezoning plan that is responsive to their needs and feedback,” said education department spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon. “We look forward to rolling out this initiative in the near future.”
Often referred to as PAR, the process relies on one-on-one conversations, canvassing, and other on-the-ground approaches led by people in the affected communities — as opposed to the town hall-style meetings run by education department officials that typically guide decision-making processes.
The rezoning in Sunset Park comes on the heels of a separate plan to change the boundaries around seven northwest Brooklyn schools in an attempt to relieve overcrowding and also encourage diversity in a deeply segregated district. A decision on those changes was recently put on hold until the 2021-22 school year.
“I want to thank the CEC members for their ongoing partnership and you, the dedicated District 15 community, for your continued willingness to engage in this process as we continue to develop a plan that advances equity and excellence for all our students,” Skop wrote.
To give feedback about what community engagement should look like, families can contact Skop at 718-935-4317 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to email@example.com.