At a meeting Thursday evening that stretched into early Friday morning, the Department of Education Panel on Education Policy voted to close M.S. 571, located at 80 Underhill Avenue in the P.S. 9 building. The PEP further voted to co-locate the Brooklyn East Collegiate charter school in the P.S. 9 building. Brooklyn East Collegiate currently serves the East New York neighborhood.
The controversial decision followed hours of public testimony, including testimony from many P.S. 9 parents interested in seeing the school expand to include grades K-8. After public comment ended, there was an extended discussion among Panel members regarding the proposal to close M.S. 571 and replace it with Brooklyn East Collegiate. Some members believed the proposal had not been given sufficient review. One member moved that the proposal be tabled for further study, but his motion was voted down by the Panel.
Representing PHNDC, Gib Veconi testified in opposition to the closing of M.S. 571, stating that a successful middle school zoned for Prospect Heights families would promote neighborhood stability and family continuity during a time of accelerated change in the neighborhood. "We ask the Department of Education instead to present a plan either to reorganize and reinforce the school so it meets DOE performance standards, or to offer another alternative that replaces M.S. 571 with a middle school zoned for Prospect Heights families. In the latter instance, we encourage the DOE to consider expanding P.S. 9 to include grades K through 8." Veconi pointed out that two DOE facilities in Prospect Heights currently are used to host schools for students from outside the neighborhood, telling the panel, "Your agency’s responsibility for teaching our children must include a commitment not only to innovative educational approaches, but also to building sustainable institutions integrated into our communities."