City May Kill Pre-K Classes to Accommodate Waitlisted Kindergartners

By Mathew Katz on March 29, 2012 8:43am 

The Department of Education's Drew Patterson told parents that eliminating pre-k classes could be a possibility to free up space for incoming kindergarten classes.
The Department of Education's Drew Patterson told parents that eliminating pre-k classes could be a possibility to free up space for incoming kindergarten classes.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

GRAMERCY — The Department of Education may consider a plan to eliminate pre-k programs to create space for more kindergartners, after hundreds of angry parents landed on a waitlist for their neighborhood schools.

With hundreds of students waitlisted in schools in Chelsea, the West Village, and the Upper East Side, and close to 100 students on waitlists at popular Downtown schools, the DOE is considering demands by outraged parents to kill pre-k programs to ensure their kids get a seat, a schools official said Wednesday.

"We look at the space and the long-term implications of that, the short-term implications of that, and determine whether it makes sense to move a pre-k out of a building," Drew Patterson, a representative of the DOE's Office of Portfolio Management, said at a meeting of the District 2 Community Education Council on Wednesday night.

Patterson said that while the city can guarantee all students will be given a kindergarten spot somewhere, he could not promise it would be in their own neighborhood. The city has not committed to adding extra classes to District 2 schools, Patterson said.

Parents said they fear that if their students don't get into local schools, they'll be forced to either send them to a nearby private school, or to a public school that's far outside of their neighborhood.

"We should be getting rid of the pre-k, then we could have those seats tomorrow," said Kara DaSilva, whose child is 20th on a 26-student waitlist to get into P.S. 89.

Karen Behrens, who lives in Gateway Plaza, said she was shocked when her daughter was waitlisted at P.S. 276.

"It’s ludicrous that our children have not been given a seat in their own neighborhoods," Behrens said.

She added that an admissions official with the Department of Education told her that getting rid of pre-k is a very real possibility as it battles with increasing enrollment and insufficient seats.

Many members of the District 2 education council said eliminating pre-k at already-packed schools would actually make the overcrowding problem worse. This is because pre-k students often come from outside a school’s zone and aren't guaranteed a spot for kindergarten, but children in an added kindergarten class would stay with the school through fifth grade.

Parent Karen Behrens said she would accept P.S. 276 eliminating pre-k to make room for her daughter.
Parent Karen Behrens said she would accept P.S. 276 eliminating pre-k to make room for her daughter.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

"When you make the incoming cohorts happy, you end up squeezing the rest of the cohorts like sardines," said council member Michael Markowitz. "There are more tushies than seats."

"For every kindergarten class you take in, you need six classrooms down the road," said Shino Tanikawa, president of the education council.

Council member Eric Goldberg said the CEC had pushed the DOE to provide them with raw waitlist numbers for schools in their area, but the department refused because enrollment could change as kindergarten classes get added and students are placed into special ed programs.

He said he would not be surprised to see the DOE add sections to already-crowded schools, reducing the size of waitlists before they freely release their numbers.

"What the DOE is going to do is try to jam more kids into schools and make new offers based on the number of sections," he said.

"The DOE is going back and they’ll try to create unsustainable situations and add sections to schools that can’t handle them."

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