Parents on 'Swollen' School Wait List Call for Added Kindergarten Class

By Emily Frost on May 22, 2014 5:20pm 

 P.S. 199 has wait-listed 98 students this year, more than two-and-a-half times the size of last year's wait list. 
P.S. 199 has wait-listed 98 students this year, more than two-and-a-half times the size of last year's wait list. 
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DNAinfo/ Emily Frost

UPPER WEST SIDE — Frustrated parents whose children are on the city's second-longest wait list to attend kindergarten are calling on the DOE to add an additional kindergarten class at the popular elementary school.

Ninety-eight children are wait-listed this year at P.S. 199 — a record high — compared to the 39 children wait-listed last year.

The long list — which some blamed on possible fake addresses submitted under the city's new kindergarten application process — is causing a frenzy among parents who argue it's not fair there isn't room at their zoned school. In response, they are demanding action and a meeting with the city's schools chief.

"When it is the worst wait list in the city, it is a crisis," said Community Education Council 3 President Joe Fiordaliso at a meeting Wednesday.

A school in Queens, P.S. 307, has the city's longest waitlist, with P.S. 199 a close second. 

A group of 57 parents with wait-listed children penned a letter to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña on May 19 "asking the DOE to protect children's right to attend their zoned school," and calling for an emergency meeting with her to address the "swollen" list.

One of the solutions they're proposing, in addition to more resources devoted to verifying applicants' addresses, is the creation of a new kindergarten class to accommodate the overflow. There are currently six classes with 25 kindergartners in each, according to PTA President Eric Shuffler.  

Many parents still believe that the DOE's new Kindergarten Connect program encouraged people to list fraudulent addresses, making it difficult for the school to verify them all. 

Parent Rohit Sethi, who signed the letter to Fariña, told the CEC he and other parents want swift action in creating room for a new class, suggesting the school consider physical changes to make space.

"Given that this would take months to get done, we should start sooner rather than later," he said.  

Fiordaliso, however, is concerned about the popular school's capacity. 

"Overcrowding erodes the quality of our schools," he said. "Enrollment was capped at P.S. 199 several years ago precisely because the school cannot sustain more than six kindergarten classes."

The CEC has reported to Superintendent Ilene Altschul that more resources need to be devoted to address address verification.

"We need to do everything possible to verify addresses and make sure everyone registering at P.S.199 actually lives in the catchment," Fiordaliso said.

The DOE did not confirm whether Fariña would consider a meeting or add a kindergarten class.

"We understand the concerns of this community, and as we go forward we are committed to working with the school and families," said DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield.

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