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Forest Hills Parents Compete for Scarce Full-Day Pre-K Programs

QUEENS — There is an overwhelming demand for seats in the five public pre-K programs in the Forest Hills and Rego Park area, and the most sought-after schools are the three that allow students to stay for a full day.

The most popular program in the neighborhood in 2012 was at P.S. 101 The School in the Gardens, according to school officials. The school received 384 applications for only 18 full-day seats.

Two other full-day programs are at P.S. 303 Academy for Excellence Through the Arts, which received 365 applications for 36 seats last year, and at P.S. 144 Col. Jeromus Remsen, where 324 kids applied for 36 seats.

All three programs are excellent, which makes them even more desirable, but every year, kids from hundreds of families don't make the cut because of the limited number of seats, parents said.

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

Francine Geir, a secretary at P.S.101, said that in the selection process, which is done online by the Department of Education, children who are zoned for the school or have siblings already at the school get preference.

“But we don’t have enough space even for these children,” Geir said.

Families looking for slightly better odds may want to try their luck at one of the half-day programs, at P.S. 206 in Rego Park or P.S. 220 in Forest Hills.

Families whose applications are rejected sometimes choose to send their kids to public pre-K programs far from home, while others choose private school instead, parents said.

But Latoya Francis, a Hunter College masters student from Rego Park, said private preschool wasn't an option for her family, because it costs up to $1,600 a month.

"It would be very difficult," Francis said. "It's more than my mortgage."

While Francis' older child attends P.S. 206, she brings her younger daughter, Maya, with her to Hunter College, with provides daycare.

Some parents also opt for privately run free universal pre-K programs, such as the one at The Church-in-the-Gardens, 50 Ascan St. in Forest Hills, which offers two half-day sessions and a curriculum that includes art, dance, cooking, science projects and field trips. Another option is the Interdisciplinary Center for Child Development at 98-02 62nd Drive in Rego Park.

Here are some of Forest Hills and Rego Park's noteworthy public pre-K programs:

P.S. 101, The School in the Gardens, 2 Russell Place

P.S. 101, the most sought-after pre-K program in Forest Hills, has only 18 seats for the upcoming school year. In 2012, only about 5 percent of children who applied were admitted to the full-day program, which focuses on numbers and reading, as well as on social skills.

Parents praised the school's veteran pre-K teacher Rhonda Corin, who they said engages young children.

Corin also has two aides, “so there are three adults working with 18 children. It’s a great ratio,” said Soumaly King, a mother of three children who all attend P.S. 101.

Her youngest child was accepted to the pre-K program at the school last year.

“It’s like winning the lottery,” she said. “It’s fantastic. There is a lot of one-on-one learning, and children get a great foundation to be successful.”

Patnicha Jiphimai said her 4-year-old daughter, Nali Abeles, who is attending the program at P.S. 101 this year, is learning at a very fast pace.

“She comes home and starts singing songs or reciting names of the presidents,” Jiphimai said.

P.S. 303, Academy for Excellence Through the Arts, 108-55 69th Ave.

The pre-K program at Academy for Excellence Through the Arts is also very popular. In 2012, about 10 percent of applicants were admitted, and this fall the school will offer two full-day classes, with 18 seats per class.

Every teacher has a background in the arts, including one pre-K teacher, who is a graduate of Fashion Institute of Technology, said Barbara Leto, the school’s principal.

“I imagine that families apply here because the arts [are] important to them,” Leto said. “We certainly want the arts to be important to the children.”

But kids learn science, too, studying dinosaurs and fossils, Leto said.

P.S. 144, Col. Jeromus Remsen, 93-02 69th Ave.

Parents from the pre-K program at P.S. 144 have high praise for their school.

“The teachers are excellent and very nice with all the kids,” a woman whose grandson attends pre-K at the school wrote on www.greatschools.org. “My grandson is learning a lot for his age.”

The program includes many art projects, and parents are also pleased with the school's large play area. 

P.S. 144 offers 36 full-day seats, and in 2012, 324 kids applied.

P.S. 206, Horace Harding, 61-02 98th St.

P.S. 206 offers two half-day options: a morning and afternoon class, with 18 seats apiece. In 2012, the program received 134 applications.

Parents whose children made it into the pre-K program said they were happy with it.

“My kid has learned so much,” said Diana Ali, whose son Taylor attended the program at P.S. 206 last year. “He picked up letters right away, learned about colors and music. Now he really likes going to school.”

P.S. 220 Edward Mandel, 62-10 108th St.

P.S. 220 in Forest Hills, located just off the Long Island Expressway, offers a morning and an afternoon class, with 18 seats each. In 2012, 186 kids applied.

Parents offered mixed reviews about programs at the school. P.S. 220 got a C on its latest progress report, but Insideschools describes it as "a high performing school."