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P.S. 59 Scraps Pre-K Program Amid Overcrowding

By Mary Johnson | May 22, 2012 7:55am
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

MIDTOWN EAST — An overcrowded elementary school in Midtown East with waitlists that stretch to first grade has scrapped its pre-kindergarten program.

P.S. 59 was scheduled to provide two half-day pre-k sections that would serve a total of 36 students when it moved into a brand new building on East 57th Street between Second and Third avenues this fall, according to the New York City Department of Education’s pre-k directory for the 2012-2013 school year.

But those sections will no longer be offered, said Eric Goldberg, a member of the District 2 Community Education Council.

"It’s just clear that the planning wasn’t done properly, so we’re going to close this pre-k program before it opens," Goldberg said. "The real problem is, if they had space, [the pre-k sections] would be offered."

A spokeswoman for the DOE confirmed that the sections will no longer be available, adding that the pre-K program at P.S. 59 was already off the table this past fall.

But Goldberg said the CEC was notified just in the past few weeks that the program would not be offered for prospective pre-kindergartners.

He noted that P.S. 59 and its 36 open seats were listed in the citywide pre-k guide, a valuable resource for parents that was released earlier this year. And a DOE representative confirmed at a recent CEC meeting that P.S. 59 would have pre-k seats available in the fall of 2012.

P.S. 59’s new East 57th Street building, which it will share with Whole Foods and the High School of Art and Design, was intended to provide the elementary institution with plenty of space for incoming students.

Earlier this year, the CEC predicted that P.S. 59 would even be spared some of the lengthy kindergarten waitlists that have plagued other schools in District 2.

But back in March, the numbers revealed a kindergarten waitlist at P.S. 59 several dozen students long. Then, a few weeks later, it appeared that the school would be weighed down with a waitlist for first grade, as well.

Amid outcry from angry parents across District 2, DOE officials said pre-k programs across the district could be axed to make room for the surplus of students.

At P.S. 59, that has now come to pass.

The demand for public pre-k programs on the East Side between 59th and 14th streets far exceeds the available options.

The pre-k program at P.S. 116, on East 33rd Street between Second and Third avenues, was scrapped about four years ago because of space constraints, Goldberg said.

P.S. 40 in Gramercy continues to offer a pre-k program, but last year the school received 282 applications for a total of 36 pre-k seats.

Several other nearby schools in District 2 offer pre-k programs. P.S. 267 on East 63rd Street is scheduled to launch a pre-k program this year, with 36 seats available, according to the DOE’s pre-k guide. But just a few blocks north, at the Ella Baker School on East 67th Street, 336 applications were submitted last year for just 54 available seats.

Parents without access to a public pre-k program can choose private school, but those programs can cost upwards of $15,000, Goldberg said.

Or, he added, some parents opt out of pre-k altogether.

"Not everyone’s coming [to kindergarten] prepared," Goldberg said.  "I agree that space should go to kindergarten [classes], but it shouldn’t be an either or."