New York City elementary schools are lining up tours for parents of prospective students this month, as the annual admissions cycle kicks into gear. Applications for the 2012-13 kindergarten classes are being accepted through March 2.
Last school year, the wait-list soared by 40 percent in March, after the first round of admissions.
The Education Department said that 92 percent of children were placed in their zoned schools but that thousands more applied than in 2010. Waiting lists shrink later when families learn if their children were accepted to private schools or gifted-and-talented programs.
Students who aren't placed in their zoned schools are sent to other schools in their district that have space.
The squeeze has been particularly tight for the past few years in parts of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. Politicians have blamed the city for failing to keep up with demographic changes, and some have proposed solutions.
Jim Devor, president of Community Education Council 15 in Brooklyn, said he again expected wait-lists at Public School 169 and P.S. 94 Henry Longfellow in Sunset Park, as well as at P.S 107 John W. Kimball in Park Slope.
"They've had wait-list issues of significant proportions," he said, adding that P.S. 107 already eliminated a pre-K class last year to make space. His advice for parents: "Be aggressive and assertive, and just don't take no for an answer."
Along with concerns about crowding, parents are also facing new academic demands. The city has shifted to its Common Core Learning Standards, which put more emphasis on higher-order thinking starting in kindergarten.
Ruby Takanishi, president of the Foundation for Child Development in New York City, said parents touring elementary schools should ask teachers and principals how they connect what's taught in kindergarten to the later grades.
"A good early-childhood learning program is based on our knowledge of how children develop cognitively, socially, emotionally," she said. "What we know about how they learn to read, how they learn to do math, how they develop their social skills. And the curriculum and instruction that goes on in these skills should be tightly linked to those developmental pathways for children."
Information about the application process can be found on the Education Department's Web site. As usual, zoned schools give priority to students who live in their boundaries, but there can be exceptions. Parents should call their local schools to ask about tours.