Friday, June 20, 2008

Already Packed and More to Come: Sunset Park Elementary Schools

Anyone who walks through Sunset Park can see that there will be lots of children in the area for years to come. Bulging bellies, strollers, overstuffed playgrounds - we've got kids. We've always had kids. Park Slope gets the flak about high-end strollers (that cost as much as a month's rent here, in some cases), but we have some strollers with two kids in one seat and another kid riding on the hood. That's how WE roll.

So it's no surprise that just as Park Slope, Downtown Brooklyn and other areas are bracing for huge influxes of new families, Sunset Park can expect more and more families with children to be moving in and staying (due in large part to the condo craze). So what is the elementary school situation here, anyway? Well, according to the May 2008 article in The Daily News:

"Four of the five elementary schools in Sunset Park are crammed beyond capacity, the report by city Controller William Thompson found. No new elementary or middle schools are planned, even though a nearly 5% enrollment increase is expected as soon as 2015."

Sunset is certainly not alone in this. However, considering the amount of homes clearing out their "extra" apartments for renters and the glut of newly constructed condominiums and the cooperative apartments that are up for sale, it might be a lot sooner than 2015 that we see a jump in elementary school enrollment.

Reading My Sidewalk Chalk, an informative blog about issues concerning education, I clicked on the link to the Comptroller's report about capacity in our schools. It's a PDF about halfway down this page.

On pages 31-32 of the Comptroller Thompson's report, called "Growing Pains," Sunset Park gets a special mention. Ouch. With one elementary school at 123% capacity, another at 116% capacity, it makes P.S. 169 sound heavenly at 95% capacity...until you learn that P.S. 169 actually uses hallways as classrooms on occasion. (Perhaps capacity count is similar to real estate agents counting closet space and bathroom space as part of the square footage.) It goes on to point out that despite expected enrollment gains, NO NEW SEATS are in the 2005-2009 capital plan. Hmmm. Doesn't sound like Chancellor Klein is on top of things when he claims that the DOE doesn't wait until a school is overcrowded to plan new schools.

Here's the list of Sunset Park elementary schools, according to the handy-dandy search engine on You can access the list and more details here, as well. Just fill in the search criteria. "Sunset Park" will bring up the following schools. (FYI: Some numbers are more than likely outdated.)

P.S. 1 - 309 47th Street (enrollment= 973)
P.S. 24 - 427 38th Street (enrollment= 791)
P.S. 94 - 5010 6th Avenue (enrollment= 1077)
P.S. 169 - 4305 7th Avenue (enrollment= 1123)
P.S. 172 - 825 4th Avenue (enrollment= 542)
P.S. 314 - 330 59th Street
housed in P.S. 314 (since 2006)
P.S. 504 (enrollment= 767)
P.S. 506 (enrollment= 741)

Some of the problems that signal overcrowding are late-scheduled lunchtimes (sometimes as late as 1 PM) due to lack of cafeteria space and a gym "cobbled together from classrooms," which of course makes true gymnastics a problem. In P.S. 24, some kindergartners attend class blocks away in trailers parked in a middle school's yard. Also, P.S. 169 holds some classes in hallways.

The Gowanus School (P.S. 172) has fantastic test scores - and the lowest enrollment. The remaining elementary schools have fair to middling test scores in reading and mathematics, with P.S. 169 boasting higher scores in mathematics. With the high need for English Language Learners in the area, the schools are asked to take on a lot more than the basic Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic - not to mention the music, art, and recreation times that have been sorely neglected by budgetary concerns.

What are parents to do? Personally, I think it's up to those of us who have the advantages of time, language, and know-how to speak up and write down about the issues we see facing our community. Paper probably works best, but here are the ways to contact Chancellor Klein:

Quickie email form for Chancellor Klein.

Other people that might want to hear from you:

Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy (sounds about right, no?)

Office of Public and Community Affairs:

Brian Ellner , Senior Counselor to the Chancellor
52 Chambers Street, Room 320
New York, NY 10007


Kavish Burney , Public & Community Affairs Associate
49 Chambers Street, Room 503
New York, NY 10007


And just for good measure:

Marty Markowitz (who wants to keep the density issue under control, I'm sure):

(718) 802-3700


Joyce Szuflita (chef-leeta) said...

Great post.
Also call Publice Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum's office. Her office was instrumental in getting press coverage and putting pressure on the DOE to address the Pre-K Registration Issue. 212 669-7250 or e-mail

Davey said...

Can I bring you with me back to the West when we move? I don't know how Sophia and I will make it without your wealth of knowledge.