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Competition Tough for Full-Day Pre-K Programs in Western Queens

ASTORIA — While Western Queens is chock full of pre-K programs, competition for seats in the few full-day options in District 30 is especially fierce.

"We’re actually fairly well served with preschools, as opposed to other districts," said District 30 Community Education Council co-president Isaac Carmignani.

But he noted that overcrowding in the district means a majority of the programs offered are only half-day sessions, to accommodate as many students as possible, and that snagging a seat in some of the available full-day programs can be tough.

One popular full-day program is at P.S. 78, 48‐09 Center Boulevard, which is the lone pre-K offered in the waterfront Long Island City neighborhood of Hunters Point, where an influx of new families have moved in during the last several years. 

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

The school offers just 36 pre-K seats, and had more applicants last year than in 2011, accepting just 23 percent of those who applied to the program in 2012.

"We would have definitely considered P.S. 78, but last year a third of the kids who applied to P.S. 78 didn’t get seats," said Hunters Point mom Mandana Limbert, who instead sent her daughter to a private pre-K program.

Father north in Dutch Kills, 36 new pre-K seats are being added to P.S. 112 on 37th Avenue starting this fall, according to the DOE's latest preschool directory.

Over in Astoria, the most popular pre-K by far is a half-day program at P.S. 122 on Ditmars Boulevard, where 339 children applied for just 36 seats last year, making the program's acceptance rate 11 percent.

The next closest public pre-K school is P.S. 85, at 23-70 31st St., a full-day program that accepted 28 percent of applicants last year.

There are other Astoria programs with more seats available and much better odds, though for some parents it often means venturing farther from home than they'd prefer.

Astoria mom Lydia Tonic said she lucked out because her zoned pre-K school was P.S. 70, at 30‐45 42 St., which has 144 available seats — the largest program in the neighborhood, accepting 53 percent of its applicants last year.

She said her son Liam, now in kindergarten in the competitive citywide gifted STEM program at P.S. 85, had an incredibly positive pre-K experience at P.S. 70, which she thought "provided the right balance of academics and playtime."

"It was a really great social experience," Tonic said, adding that her son also got assigned simple homework assignments in addition to being given ample playtime with other students.

"I think it's helpful just to get some structure, to get some sense of how to behave, since that was really the first time he was in that kind of setting," she said.

The only drawback, she said, was that the program is only offered in morning and afternoon sessions, which last just two-and-a-half hours a day.

"I think it would be good if they could have a full-day preschool there," she said.

Here are some of the noteworthy public pre-K programs in Astoria, Long Island City, Woodside and Sunnyside:

P.S. 78, Robert F. Wagner Jr., 48‐09 Center Boulevard

Located on the first floors of the CityLights building, a luxury high-rise, P.S. 78 is the only pre-K program in the blossoming waterfront neighborhood of Hunters Point, making it difficult for young neighborhood families to snag a seat.

Many parents in the neighborhood say they instead opt for private preschool to avoid having to head far from home each day to another public program. With just 36 available full-day slots, P.S. 78 had 44 more applicants in 2012 than it did in 2011. 

P.S. 122, Mamie Fay, 21-21 Ditmars Boulevard

Located in Ditmars, P.S. 122 is a large school of more than 1,300 students, and is arguably the area's most popular, known for its strong academics and a very active parent body.

The school's pre-K is offered in morning and afternoon sessions, totaling just 36 seats, which a whopping 339 applicants competed for last year. It makes the program the most difficult in the neighborhood to get into.

P.S. 234, Queens, 30-15 29 St.

P.S. 234 is among the neighborhood's most popular schools, located just off the bustling 30th Avenue thoroughfare. Its pre-K has 36 seats broken into a morning and an afternoon class, and is the second most competitive in the area, behind P.S. 122. Only 16 percent of applicants were accepted last year.

P.S. 70, Queens, 30-45 42 St.

Located near Astoria's border with Woodside, P.S. 70 is a large school with more than 1,000 students enrolled. Its pre-K is the largest in District 30, with 144 available slots, making the program the easiest in the neighborhood to get into: More than half of applicants who applied last year were accepted.

P.S. 152, Gwendolyn Alleyne, 33-52 62 St.

One of the few District 30 pre-K programs in Woodside, P.S. 152 offers 72 seats and had a 36 percent acceptance rate last year. According to the website Insideschools, P.S. 152 focuses heavily on arts education and on physical activity, and is ethnically diverse, home to many immigrant students.

P.S. 150, Queens, 40-01 43 Ave.

P.S. 150 is an extremely popular elementary school located on the north side of Sunnyside known in the upper grades for its gifted and talented program. The pre-K offers 76 seats, split between a morning and an afternoon class, and is on the competitive side: 311 children applied for spots last year, and just under a quarter of them were accepted.