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New School, New Zones, But Still Few Seats for Park Slope Pre-K

By Leslie Albrecht | February 25, 2013 10:31am

PARK SLOPE — Shifting zones and a brand new school will mean major changes for Park Slope's pre-K options this year, but there's one thing parents can count on to stay the same: too few seats for too many kids.

P.S. 10 in the South Slope is a prime example. In 2012, the school received a whopping 606 applications for its 36 pre-K seats, meaning that just 6 percent of students who applied got in.

That program has been eliminated in the wake of rezoning in District 15, and so has the pre-K program at popular P.S. 321, which saw 524 applicants for just 12 seats in 2011. Those cuts come on top of the loss of the pre-K program at another well-liked school, P.S. 107, which eliminated its program in 2011.

DNAinfo.com New York ranked sought-after public pre-K programs based on their 2012 admission rates.
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Celine Huang

Parents who were hoping to apply to those schools will have to find other options, and Ahmed Dickerson, parent coordinator at P.S. 133, said he's already seen evidence of that.

"I'm already getting tons of phone calls and tons of emails," Dickerson said of parents on the hunt for information about P.S. 133's pre-K program, which will add two classes to grow to 72 seats in 2013-14. The school had 274 applicants for its 28 pre-K seats in 2012.

Despite the slim chances, parents lucky enough to win a coveted public pre-K slot say it's worth it to apply.

"Don't assume the odds are so against you that you shouldn't apply," said P.S. 39 mom Jo Goldfarb, who was convinced she would never get one of the school's 36 seats, but applied after her husband convinced her. "Kids do get in."

Here's a look at some noteworthy Park Slope pre-K programs:

P.S. 133, William A. Butler School, 211 Eighth St./610 Baltic St.

P.S. 133 is adding two pre-K classes in 2013-14 for a total of 72 seats. Parents are drawn to the pre-K at P.S. 133 because it's one of the few that has a full-day program for its ICT (Integrated Co-Teaching) class, where special needs kids learn alongside general education students, Dickerson said.

The school is also known for its French and Spanish dual-language programs, one of which may be extended to a pre-K class in 2013-14, Dickerson said. The Department of Education will make a final ruling on that later this spring.

In 2013-14 P.S. 133 will move to a brand-new building at 610 Baltic St. (The school has been housed temporarily inside the former St. Thomas Aquinas building at Fourth Avenue and Eighth Street.)

This fall P.S. 133 will become a choice school for families from District 13 and 15. Under a unique agreement with the Department of Education, the school will give priority to admitting kids who are learning to speak English, as well as kids who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.

"We're very diverse," Dickerson said. "If you come and look at our pre-K you'll see all different kinds of backgrounds and different races."

P.S. 39, The Henry Bristow Landmark School, 417 Sixth Ave.

P.S. 39 is a popular choice for pre-K, receiving 515 applications for 36 seats in 2012.

Mom Erin Cowhey said her son Benjamin was nervous about starting pre-K because he didn't know all of his letters, but his anxiety was quickly quelled by the pre-K's low-pressure environment.

"The day is organized in a very clear way," Cowhey said. "They're learning in a nice, non-stressful way."

Aside from basic math concepts and letters, kids learn a schedule, how to play with each other and how to work together, Cowhey said.

"They take turns taking responsibility for different activities throughout the day, which is nice. I like that social collaboration emphasis," Cowhey said. "It's important to me that they learn to be respectful of each other."

This spring P.S. 39's long building renovation will be complete and the school plans to restart its gardening program.

P.S. 282, The Park Slope School, 180 Sixth Ave.

Kids in P.S. 282's pre-K program get the best of both worlds, said mom Jen Keiser Gordon. They share in the school's rich resources, including a music room full of piano keyboards, a tech room stocked with iPads, a garden, and art and drama instruction. But pre-K students also get to use a private, new playground that's reserved just for them, and they eat lunch in their classrooms.

"It's a very safe little enclave," Keiser Gordon said.

The school has 72 pre-K seats and received 492 applications in 2012.

Pre-K students this year are planting a "sensory garden" full of plants with interesting smells and textures, and they keep a compost bin in their classroom where they can observe baby worms firsthand.

"It's a really warm, welcoming, well-run place and I recommend it," Keiser Gordon said. "And I love that it's public. It's such a wonderful thing to see my tax dollars at work."

P.S. 372, The Children's School, 512 Carroll St.

The Children's School, which is open to kids from across District 15, is known for effectively serving a mix of special needs and general education kids.

The school's pre-K classes of 18 seats each are no exception, said mom Nicole Krieger.

"It seems really well-run," Krieger said. "They know how to work with the children and make the children participate in the classroom, whether they are general ed or kids with [individualized education plans]."

Children eat lunch in their classroom and have music, dance and multimedia instruction. Students have been creating self-portraits on a regular basis as part of their art instruction. There's cooking every Friday, and the class made noodles to celebrate Chinese New Year — then ate them at lunch, Krieger said.

Students recently learned about pulleys and other simple machines, did a series of projects on penguins including building a life-size penguin, and got an introduction to pop art and Andy Warhol, Krieger said.

"My daughter came home and said she wanted to be a pop artist," Krieger said.

P.S. 118, The Maurice Sendak Community School, 211 Eighth St.

This brand-new school will open this fall in the St. Thomas Aquinas building on Fourth Avenue and Eighth Street. The school, created to ease the space crunch at P.S. 321, will be led by P.S. 321 assistant principal Elizabeth Garraway. She's said she'll use a "multicultural approach" at P.S. 118.

Named after Brooklyn native Maurice Sendak, the school will have 30 pre-K seats divided into two classes, which should be just enough to accommodate zoned families, Garraway said.

Though an untested school, it's already garnered an enthusiastic group of parent supporters called P.S. 118 Founding Families who are determined to make P.S. 118 into another Park Slope favorite.