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Lengthy Kindergarten Wait Lists Unveiled as Applicants Increase

Friday, April 06, 2012

education, classroom, school, school supplies, class, teachers, students (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

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.

This year, the longest waiting list was once again at P.S. 169 in Brooklyn's Sunset Park, with 113 zoned students shut out compared to 99 after admissions letters went out last year. Nearby, P.S. 94 has 111 wait-listed applicants and P.S. 307 in Corona, Queens has 109.
Some families applied to multiple schools hoping to improve their odds. 

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."

After talking to a lot of people in the neighborhood, she said she felt like her child would likely get a spot. "But until I get the letter I won't be very comfortable," she said.

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Comments [3]

Johanna from Sunset Park

The situation in Sunset Park is even worse than the map indicates -- when this topic came up on a parents board, one parent said that her child was waitlisted at PS 172, which didn't appear on WNYC's map at all. What happens to these kids? Sure, room will "free up" for spaces when the waitlist is even 10 kids, but when it's more than four full, kindergarden rooms (such as the case for PS 169)? What happens to those kids? I'd really love to see someone research that -- to talk to parents outside Manhattan and Brooklyn's tonier climes, and instead in struggling neighborhoods where the city and schools are failing kids even before they enroll. Over 400 waitlisted kindergardners in Sunset Park alone.

Apr. 09 2012 04:32 PM
Eli from Forest Hills, NY

I have to agree with Svetlana about her first point. My daughter is one of the unlucky ones on the PS196 wait list. What makes me angry is that I KNOW (via 1st and 2nd hand knowledge) that there are quite a few non zoned kids fraudulently attending our zoned school and displacing zoned kids. The documentation requirements are a joke and are easy to fake. Schools (or board of ed) do not make the effort to weed out the families that either pay someone or get a friend to help them with the required documentation.

I do disagree with Svetlana about one thing, there is no reason to randomly audit parents in this day and age. Anyone with basic search engine knowledge can spend a couple of hours going over *ALL* applications and flag people that probably do not belong to the school. It would require minimal resources to do that and then follow up by physically showing up at the flagged application address to confirm residency.

Parents that are caught trying to falsify residency should pay a nice fat fine that will go to the school of choice. Everybody wins!

Apr. 09 2012 03:13 PM
Svetlana from Forest Hills, NY

I can't prove it, but when one looks at district 28 (Central, South Queens), and specifically at the Forest Hills schools, PS 196 seems to have about 73 kids on it's wait list, while other locals schools have only 2 kids (PS 144), and only 11 kids (PS 101).

When you actually look at the zone for PS 196, you'll see the zone is largely single family homes, and some small (around 6 floors) apartments.

There is no way PS 196 will have 73 kids who are zoned for the school on that waitlist, while a few blocks away, the other schools will have a handful of kids at most.

Parents are cheating to get into PS 196, using fake addresses, faked utility bills, or paying residents to accept mail from the schools on their behalf.

The Dept. of Education should look into this. Random checks at parent's listed homes should work. And why not? Shouldn't a school want to see a child's living conditions anyway?

My daughter, and many of my daughter's playmates... who live in the zone, are unable to get in.

It's very frustrating.

Meanwhile, the traffic jam of cars waiting to pick up kids and drop them off on a daily basis seems to get longer and longer.

Apr. 09 2012 12:41 PM

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