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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + project FAQ (pinned post)

A simple explanation for the surprise jump in school seats (to 812, or 825) at B15: middle-school classes have more students

As I reported in September, it was a surprise to learn that the middle-school at the B15 site (aka 664 Pacific, 662 Pacific, or 37 Sixth) would have 800 students rather than, as previously announced and expected, 640.

And, as I reported earlier this month, the latest School Construction Authority (SCA) Capital Plan indicates 812 seats.
Nov. 2019 SCA Capital Plan, p. C8
The disclosure in September from an SCA rep Tamar Smith came without any explanation, but, thanks to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the SCA, I've learned a fairly simple explanation: middle schools have more capacity.

"I wanted to share a couple of updates about Pacific Park – still no opening date but the developer has definitely begun to work on their building," wrote Smith, the SCA's Manager, Communications & External Affairs, to colleagues in April. "One change is we’ve updated the capacity in the last few weeks to match a middle school – the school will hold approx. 825 students, rather than the 640 elementary students."

Note that she cited 825 seats, rather than 812. She also said, as noted below, that the square footage hadn't changed, though I'm still confused by differing filings with the Department of Buildings regarding whether the announced 100,000 square feet is above-grade or includes below-grade space. Perhaps we'll learn more at a future Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park meeting.

The explanation, and the challenge

Smith added:
It’s the same amount of physical space as it has always been but the original capacity number was figured for elementary school (with fewer kids in each classroom). Now though it’s figured to be 28 kids per class, which I understand is the usual number for grades 6-8.
Remember that we had already negotiated the space with the owner and were well into design when the chancellor decided to change it into a middle school.
There may well be a need for a school that large. However, any school at that location, given its proximity to the arena, police station, fire station, and scofflaw parking, will be challenged at times regarding street safety, especially when parents and staffers drive to the school.

Perhaps it would be safer for middle-school kids, who require less supervision. Then again, an increased number number of students would pressure a tight site as well as likely would inundate the fractional open space behind nearby Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park towers.

A not-quite-updated history

However much Smith's explanation makes sense, that does suggest, at best, uninformed public relations, sloppiness, or even a lack of candor on the part of schools officials, the developer, as well as advocates for a middle-school.

When, in January 2016, DNAinfo broke the news, quoting Schools Chancellor Carmen FariƱa, it cited a 616-seat middle school. A representative of the developers said "This 600-seat school will be a tremendous community anchor."

A press release from the advocacy group M.S. OneBrooklyn quoted Assembly Member Walter Mosley, "I applaud Chancellor Carmen Farina and the New York City Department of Education for their decision to ensure all 616 seats... will be dedicated to a middle school."

Perhaps the advocates, elected officials, and even the developer didn't know any better. But schools officials should have told us more.

Even so, subsequent SCA capital plans--examples below from February 2017 and February 2018--failed to update the capacity.
Feb. 2017 SCA Capital Plan, p. C8

Feb. 2018 SCA Capital Plan, p. C8