STATEN ISLAND — Staten Island parents aren't accustomed to thinking about public elementary school choices.
In the past, most families stuck with the public school they were zoned for based on where they lived, parents say. The Michael J. Petrides School was the only one that allowed unzoned children to apply, holding an admission lottery every year.
Now, though, some other elementary schools are beginning to open admission to children all across the borough, and parents welcome the extra choices.
P.S. 65, which opened in 2008 in Tompkinsville, has let parents from any neighborhood apply, with a lottery for pre-K-to-fifth-grade seats.
Last year, the school graduated its inaugural fifth-grade class, and parents of current students say they love the school and the choice it gives to families, particularly noting the strong pre-K program.
“There are public schools closer to my house,” said Elma Jarito, of New Brighton, who takes a bus to get her children to pre-K and third grade at the school. “I don’t mind traveling because I love this school.”
Jarito praised the staff's friendliness and accessibility.
“It’s very convenient to approach them,” she said. “I appreciate everything.”
Other parents praised its focus on art and music in the curriculum, and said they decided to send their children to the school for pre-K to get a head start.
“It’s just dumb luck that we got in,” said Jay Montgomery, who founded the Harbor Lights Theater Company with his wife. “It’s a great school.”
For residents of the borough's South Shore who may find the commute to P.S. 65 too long, a new option is on the way.
In 2015, P.S. 62 in Rossville will open its doors to 444 students from kindergarten through fifth grade.
The school, which promises to be one of the most environmentally friendly in the country, has not decided whether it will accept non-zoned students, a Department of Education spokeswoman said.
However, its proximity to P.S. 56, just a block away, suggests that the school may give parents a choice.
Still, if P.S. 65 and Petrides serve as examples, seats in P.S. 62 may be hard to get.
In 2010, P.S. 65 had 90 applicants for only 35 kindergarten seats, according to Insideschools. Petrides generally has about 1,000 students vying for nearly 75 kindergarten spots, the website reported.
Here are some of Staten Island's noteworthy zoned and un-zoned public elementary schools:
P.S. 65, The Academy of Innovative Learning, 98 Grant St.
Led by Principal Sophie Scamardella, this Tompkinsville school has been a popular choice because it incorporates music, art and dance into the everyday curriculum, parents say. Aside from the arts, parents also appreciate the teachers' approachability, the student uniforms and the good behavior teachers instill.
Michael J. Petrides School, 715 Ocean Terrace
The large Sunnyside school houses students from kindergarten all the way to high school from all over the borough. Seats for kindergarten class have become increasingly tough to get at the school, which is led by Principal Joanne Buckheit.
P.S. 35, Clove Valley School, 60 Foote Ave.
This Sunnyside school, led by principal Melissa Garofalo, has a very active PTA with a constantly updated Facebook page connecting parents. Education-wise, the school has a strong focus on literacy and offers several music classes, the DOE said.
P.S. 29, Bardwell School, 1581 Victory Blvd.
This Castleton Corners school, led by Principal Linda Manfredi, has become known for its gifted and talented program, open to students from all over Staten Island. For third, fourth and fifth graders, the school offers weekly programs, which include lessons in journalism, band and school beautification, the DOE said.
P.S. 8, Shirlee Solomon, 112 Lindewood Road
This Bay Terrace school has consistently received A's in all categories on the DOE’s report cards. Led by Lisa Esposito, the school has creative after school activities — including puppetry and drama — high math and reading scores, and peer tutoring.