Chelsea School Bucks the Trend With No Kindergarten Waitlist

By Mathew Katz on March 29, 2012 7:48am 

P.S. 11 students eagerly await their food in the cafeteria. The school managed to avoid waitlisting incoming students for the upcoming school year.
P.S. 11 students eagerly await their food in the cafeteria. The school managed to avoid waitlisting incoming students for the upcoming school year.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

CHELSEA — While Downtown schools have waitlisted more than 100 kindergarten applicants and many more parents around the city failed to secure places at their first choice, in Chelsea there's plenty of space.

According to P.S. 11's principal, Bob Bender, not a single zoned student in Chelsea that applied for the school's kindergarten program for the upcoming year was put on a waitlist.

The school had 850 students last year, and took in a kindergarten class of about 140, according to the District 2 Community Education Council. It is on track to have similar numbers for the upcoming year.

That's a change from years past, when the high-demand school was so overcrowded it had to give up its library and a "cluster" room to fit excess students.

The school got extra space when the Clinton School for Writers and Artists, which shared the building at 320 W. 21st St. with P.S. 11 for decades, moved further uptown.

"P.S. 11 is taking in the right number of students for their school," said Eric Goldberg, a member of the District 2 Community Education Council.

"I think that this is an example where there was a school and a zoning crisis, we came up with a solution, and now the school and the enrollment process is operating the way it should."

The school has seen significant improvements in recent years, leading to a recently successful campaign by Chelsea parents to halt a Department of Education plan to rezone them to P.S. 33.

Under Bender, the school also pioneered a food program that incorporates food from the school's own gardens, along with local farms, into the cafeteria's menu.

Despite the good news for the school, Goldberg said he feared that with so much overcrowding in other schools in the district, the DOE could direct more students towards P.S. 11.

"I think the DOE sees this as a place to stuff more students," he said.

"It will take them two or three years to grow into the space. If you put more students into it, you're going to end up with overcrowding."

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