Beth Fertig is WNYC’s Contributing Editor for Education. She previously covered politics, which included City Hall during the Giuliani administration, and the U.S. Senate campaigns of Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. She also covered transportation and infrastructure.
Lengthy Kindergarten Wait Lists Unveiled as Applicants Increase
Friday, April 06, 2012
More than 2,400 children are on wait lists to get into kindergarten classes at their local, zoned New York City public schools, as applications continued to climb, the Department of Education revealed Friday.
For the second consecutive year, 125 city schools have waiting lists for zoned students, mostly in neighborhoods of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan that have attracted more families.
The DOE said it received 62,287 kindergarten applications - 600 students more than last year -- but the number of incoming students who got waitlisted was down by nearly 200.
Karen Behrens, who lives in Battery Park City, said she was surprised when her four-year old daughter was among 25 children in the zone who were shut out of PS 276.
"We didn't apply anywhere else because we were made to feel very confident this was not going to be an issue," she said, adding that her daughter is No. 23 on the waiting list, according to the letter she received last month.
In Lower Manhattan, the three local schools for Battery Park City and Tribeca all have waiting lists.
Behrens was among several parents who questioned whether the DOE has kept up with rising demand, despite the creation of new schools.
The new Peck Slip school, P.S. 343, was supposed to alleviate crowding in Lower Manhattan. But it already has a wait list of seven students for the first class of kindergarten students - who will be housed in the department's Tweed Courthouse headquarters while the building is renovated.
The department says wait lists are expected to shrink by the fall as families learn whether their children were accepted to gifted and talented programs, charter schools and private schools.
"We know that this can be an anxious time for parents," said department spokesman Frank Thomas. "We will continue to work with all of our schools to help them reduce waitlists and ensure that every student has access to a great kindergarten."
Schools may be encouraged to add kindergarten sections, for example, if space permits. The city expects thousands more students to apply over the summer and in the first week of school.
But Thomas said only a few hundred students were not able to attend their zoned schools last September. The department gives priority to students who live in the zone, and to their siblings. Those who can't get seats are sent to other schools in their district.
Last year, the department said more than 3200 students were wait-listed. But Thomas said that number included siblings who applied to schools attended by their brothers or sisters who now live outside those local zones.
Hyon Su Kwon, who lives in Park Slope, wanted her daughter to attend PS 107 - which is just a block away. Knowing the school had a waiting list last year, she applied to four other schools. But her daughter was wait-listed at all five. She described herself as "really frustrated and anxious."