MIDTOWN EAST — When the kindergarten admissions season kicked off in January, P.S. 59 looked to be the only school with available room on Manhattan's overcrowded east side.
The elementary school was on track to move from its temporary home on East 63rd Street to a new, larger location on East 57th Street, and early estimates indicated the school would have plenty of space for students when it opened in fall 2012.
But now that the registration deadline has passed, the numbers reveal that P.S. 59 will have a kindergarten waitlist several-dozen students long, said Eric Goldberg, a member of the District 2 Community Education Council.
That waitlist is even longer than what parents are facing at P.S. 116 in Kips Bay, where parents and teachers recently lost a lengthy campaign to stem overcrowding in the school. The waitlist there is 26 students long, said Goldberg, whose child attends the popular neighborhood school.
Faced with such a surge of kindergartners at P.S. 59, the Department of Education is urging the school to open five kindergarten classes of 25 students each, instead of the four originally planned for the new school building, Goldberg said.
But even that will leave the school with a waitlist of some 40 students.
And going forward, if the school continues to fill five kindergarten classes every year, P.S. 59 may be forced to sacrifice its pre-kindergarten program due to lack of space, he added.
“Again, we can’t accommodate the zoned students in this area, and we can’t accommodate them even after basically packing kindergarten classrooms,” Goldberg said. “It’s really just a deeply flawed process that children and parents end up suffering.”
The DOE is expected to begin notifying families this week about whether their children can attend P.S. 59 in the fall. The decision will be made through a lottery, and those children who don’t earn a spot will be enrolled at another school somewhere in District 2, which extends from the Upper East Side down to TriBeCa, Goldberg said.
The DOE did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the situation at P.S. 59.
Several parents of prospective P.S. 59 kindergartners have reached out to elected officials and the DOE to express outrage at the situation.
One woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern for how it may affect her daughter’s chances in the lottery, said she contemplated moving to a less-crowded zone before her daughter was ready for kindergarten.
The mother decided to stay when she learned there would be a new, larger school built just a block from her home. She even purchased the apartment next door to her existing unit to create a larger, longer-term living space.
“It’s very nerve-wracking, because we stayed in our neighborhood because we knew we were getting a new school,” she explained. “I figured as long as they moved in [to the new building in time], it would be a slam dunk.”
Another parent, who also did not want to be named out of concerns for her daughter’s placement at the school, said she felt “blindsided” by the whole experience.
“We moved across the street from the new school because we were assured that there would be a space for every single kindergartner,” she said. “It just seems like poor planning on their part and a waste of city funds to bus my child, who lives 20 yards from the school, to another school.”
The mother, once a teacher herself and now a human resources manager, said she could afford private school but doesn't want that educational experience for her daughter.
“I really believe in public school when it’s done well,” she explained. “[But] I feel that the system is failing everyone now.”
Goldberg said overcrowding has occurred in part because the DOE does not collaborate with parents on forecasting student need in different areas.
“The parent community continues to provide data to the DOE that makes it clear that there’s not enough classrooms in Midtown," Goldberg said, "and the DOE continues to ignore it."
But there will be some relief in the numbers, once those students who will ultimately attend private school notify the DOE of their decision, he said. And when students' gifted and talented results are available in the coming months, some parents will inevitably take their kids out of the public school running, as well.
“The city process is so convoluted that parents will remain on this wait-list longer than is necessary,” Goldberg explained. “The city doesn’t do a good job of helping people through what is a difficult time.”