Kindergarten Waitlists Stress Out Upper East Side Parents
By Amy Zimmer
DNAinfo News Editor
UPPER EAST SIDE — The parents of waitlisted 5-year-olds on the Upper East Side have another 13 years to worry about getting their kids into college, but they’re already getting a lesson in anxiety.
Eighty-five children are waitlisted for P.S. 59, on East 63rd Street between Second and Third Avenues, the latest Department of Education numbers showed. At P.S. 290, on East 82nd Street between First and Second Avenues, 65 kids are on the waitlist.
Adding to the angst, the waitlist numbers are changing daily, DOE officials told a room of tense Upper East Side parents on Monday night.
The lists change as children were admitted to private schools, education officials said, and they would continue to fluctuate until June when families will hear whether their kids get into gifted and talented programs.
"Last year, looking at the top six waitlists in Manhattan, on average 20 percent of students did not end up enrolled in their zoned school," DOE representative Elizabeth Rose told parents, hoping to allay fears. "There is a lot of movement off these lists."
That figure instead evoked grumbles and sighs.
"You hope people are going to leave and go to the suburbs or go to private school?" one man yelled out in despair.
"We have tracked the numbers of students who go to [gifted and talented programs]," Rose responded. "Based on that history, we are confident we will place all the students in District 2," she said of this Manhattan school district that stretches to Lower Manhattan.
Parents would get offers to send their kindergartners to alternatives to their first choice schools some time in May, Rose said.
Students will be assigned to other schools based on geographic proximity.
Some of the kids in P.S. 59’s zone, she explained, might go to schools south of 63rd Street, while four schools north of it — P.S. 151, 158, 198 and 267 — would pick up others.
Upper East Side schools were rezoned just a few months ago to alleviate overcrowding, but DOE officials warned then that changing zones would not eliminate kindergarten waitlists — especially in the case of P.S. 290, where blocks initially taken out of the zone were eventually added back.
"There was a lot of pushback from parents in 290," Rose said. "They said they would rather take the risk of a waitlist than being put in another school's zone."
But before sending out letters about these alternative schools, education officials were considering adding one more section of kindergarten at one of three schools that might have room — P.S. 151, 158 and 267 — Rose said.
Parents wanted to know why they couldn’t have a say in the process to let the DOE know their second or third choices.
One parent, whose son is waitlisted at P.S. 59, told DNAinfo she would prefer to go south since she has to take her daughter to daycare downtown.
"This is not a choice process," Rose told parents. "We have one process citywide."
"The fair way to do this, to be as close as possible, is based on geography," she said.
Parents could apply for a special exemption if they have a hardship, she told parents. Rose also told parents that their children would be eligible for a bus ride, if given a school more than half a mile from where they lived.
But that only stoked more questions.
Parents asked how many adults would supervise the kids on the bus. They wanted to know if the bus driver would drop off a 5-year-old if the parent, for some reason, wasn’t at the bus stop in the afternoon.
One dad shouted "When does the lobbying begin?"
A mother, who lives on the same block as P.S. 290, told DNAinfo how upsetting it would be to walk by there every morning with her son and explain why he can’t go there.
Another parent told DNAinfo he moved around the corner from P.S. 290 when his daughter was born so she could go there.
"I’m still very confused," this dad said after the Q & A with DOE officials. "We just have to wait. It’s going to be a horrible summer."
(Parents didn’t want their names used, fearing it could jeopardize their children's chances of getting off the waitlist.)