Waitlisted TriBeCa Kindergartners Won't Have to Go to Chinatown

By Julie Shapiro | September 14, 2011 11:37am

TRIBECA — TriBeCa parents who fought the city's proposal to send their children to school in Chinatown after running out of classroom space in TriBeCa can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Although the city insisted earlier this year that more than two dozen children waitlisted for TriBeCa's popular P.S. 234 would have to go to school at P.S. 130 on Baxter Street instead, enough last-minute seats opened up at P.S. 234 to prevent that from happening, officials said.

"We're not sending anyone to P.S. 130," said Lisa Ripperger, P.S. 234's principal.

Ripperger said Tuesday that she was able to offer a seat to every single child on P.S. 234's kindergarten waitlist except for one — and that child will go to P.S. 89 in northern Battery Park City, rather than to P.S. 130.

And while P.S. 234 did not have room for the eight additional kindergartners who moved to the neighborhood over the summer and tried to register at the last minute, even those children will not have to go to P.S. 130, Ripperger said.

Instead, the city was able to find space for the late enrollees at P.S. 89 and P.S. 276, the new school in southern Battery Park City, Ripperger said.

"Registers cleared and seats opened up as part of the normal process, and we are happy most parents got their preferred outcome. But when students are waitlisted we are obligated to provide them alternate offers, as we did in this case. ”

TriBeCa parents said previously that they found P.S. 89 and P.S. 276 more appealing than P.S. 130 because they are south of Canal Street and share P.S. 234's progressive educational philosophy.

While P.S. 130 has strong test scores, TriBeCa parents were concerned about the school's stricter rules, including a requirement that students must wear uniforms, and parents also worried their children would have trouble making friends because 70 percent of incoming kindergarteners at P.S. 130 do not speak English as a primary language.

Backed by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the TriBeCa parents opposed the city's P.S. 130 plan earlier this year and collected more than 400 petition signatures asking the city to allow their children to enroll in a school that was closer to home.

Part of the reason that P.S. 276 and P.S. 89 both ended up having room to accept P.S. 234's overflow is because each school opened an extra kindergarten class this year: P.S. 276 has five kindergartens rather than four, and P.S. 89 has four kindergartens rather than three.

To alleviate the overcrowding and annual kindergarten waitlists, the city plans to open a new elementary school on the site of the Peck Slip Post Office in 2015.

In the meantime, Ripperger said she is cracking down on parents who lie about their address to gain entrance to her school, so that she can make room for more children who legitimately deserve to be there.

To catch parents who list a TriBeCa address but actually live elsewhere, Ripperger and her staff stake out both the family's purported address and their suspected real address early in the morning.

Ripperger said she recently caught a Brooklyn family and an Upper West Side family who had claimed to be TriBeCa residents.

"It sounds a little crazy, but we have to do it," Ripperger said. "We have a waitlist [and] we just can't afford to give seats away."