It’s white flight in reverse.
At least 16 parents in Brooklyn Heights, a mostly white, upscale neighborhood, have enrolled their children in a more racially diverse charter school in lower-income Bedford-Stuyvesant — saying their local city middle school doesn’t measure up.
Families have shunned MS 8, the city middle school where their fifth-graders are guaranteed admission, and which is within walking distance of their pricy brownstones.
Instead, a stunning 60 families entered an admissions lottery at the Brooklyn Prospect Charter Clinton Hill Middle School, which will require a 15-minute subway ride or 20-minute drive to a Fulton Street neighborhood filled with delis and dollar stores.
Of the winners, at least 16 to 19 kids from PS 8 have accepted seats in the charter, snubbing their hometown middle school.
“That’s right — largely upper-middle and higher-income parents in Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo are gonna haul their kids into Bed-Stuy because their local public middle school is so poorly staffed and run,” one dad said. “The charter school blew us away with their presentation, curriculum and methodology.”
With targeted recruitment and word-of-mouth endorsements, Brooklyn Prospect is attracting more whites. This school year, 38 percent of the charter’s kids are white, compared to 59 percent at MS 8. In 2016-17, only 10 percent of the charter’s students were white, records show.
Black and Hispanic students make up 47 percent of the charter’s kids, compared to 27 percent at MS 8. In 2016-17, the charter was 70 percent black.
In addition the charter’s kids are poorer, with 30 percent deemed low-income versus 18 percent at MS 8.
This year, a total 650 families citywide entered the Brooklyn Prospect charter lottery, vying for the 100 to 110 seats available for incoming 6th-graders.
Many Brooklyn Heights parents looked far beyond MS 8, some saying they wanted a more “academically rigorous” education.
“We applied to 13 schools, which is absolutely ridiculous,” said Florencia Korhammer, whose fifth-grader will attend Brookyn Prospect. The family applied to nine Department of Education schools, plus two private schools and two charters.
“We put MS 8 at No. 11, because it was one where we had a guaranteed seat if we didn’t get anywhere else,” the mom said.
The Korhammers’ far-flung search echoed a study released last week by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School. It found 40 percent of city kindergarten students enrolled in schools outside their residential zones, compared to 28 percent a decade ago. Of the black students, half went to charter schools, Among whites, 29 percent chose charters, which are taxpayer-funded but privately run.
Why the exodus? In Brooklyn Heights, PS 8, the elementary school, sits on tree-lined Hicks Street teeming with dog-walkers, stroller-pushing moms and cafes.
But MS 8 is located blocks away on busy Tillary Street at the edge of downtown Brooklyn — next to the Metrotech Center, NYC College of Technology, and Kings County Family Court.
MS 8 uses the fourth floor of the scaffold-covered Westinghouse HS building, which also houses two high schools. All students enter through grim metal detectors. It has no gym — kids use a nearby park.
George Stewart, a Dumbo dad, said his fifth-grade son “said he did not want to go to MS 8 because he had heard from other kids that it wasn’t going to be challenging enough.”
Parents are also uneasy that principal Patricia Peterson, appointed last July, runs both PS 8 and MS 8, saying management suffers. She failed to replace a Spanish teacher who quit, so students lacked language classes nearly the entire year.
Peterson referred questions to the DOE press office, which said the district superintendent “is looking into it and will work with the school community to address any concerns.”
Julie Beglin, a member of the PTA executive board at MS 8, said she is happy with the school and its staff. “We feel our daughter is getting a ton out of it, both academically and socially,”
But Drew Weinstein, whose older daughter is already in 6th grade at Brooklyn Prospect, said “it’s a no-brainer” that his younger daughter, a 4th grader at PS 8, will join her sister there.
“I think it’s an excellent balance of challenging academics and respecting kids’ childhood,” he said of the of the charter.
Brooklyn Prospect boasts an International Baccalaureate program, which is rare among middle schools. Only a few top NYC high schools offer the challenging curriculum. The charter also offers Spanish and Mandarin, various arts and dance classes, and an after-school program.
This fall, it will rent a custom-built, 32,000 square-foot edifice on Fulton Street. It includes a cafeteria/common area, outdoor play space, gym, library, music and art studios, and science labs. Grads will get priority at Brooklyn Prospect Charter HS in Windsor Terrace.
The 10-year-old charter group says it aims for racial and socioeconomic diversity by offering high-quality options.
“We believe that choice can be very effective in combating school segregation,” said executive director Dan Rubenstein. “Integrating schools is hard work that begins by creating a strong academic program — something all parents want.”
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