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Pre-K Applications Skyrocket in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill

By Janet Upadhye | March 4, 2013 7:46am

FORT GREENE — Rents aren't the only thing skyrocketing in Fort Greene.

Over the past few years, the number of pre-K applicants vying for spots in the neighborhood’s seven public schools has nearly tripled, according to Department of Education data.

And the bad news for parents is that the number of pre-K seats has remained the same.

“It’s hard,” said Felicia Falebita, who has a son who will be applying for pre-K next year. “We are worried.”

In 2009, the neighborhood's schools received 431 applications for 198 seats. In 2012, 1,017 applications flooded in, but still only 198 kids were admitted. (The number of applications may include some duplicates because families can apply to more than one school.)

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DNAinfo.com New York ranked sought-after public pre-K programs based on their 2012 admission rates.
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“We applied to eight schools in three districts and didn’t get into any of them,” said Tanya Pierre, whose daughter now attends P.S. 11 in Fort Greene. “Finally two weeks into the school year a space opened up — we got lucky.”

Just a few years ago, some schools in the district, such as P.S. 67 Charles A. Dorsey located at the Ingersoll Houses, P.S. 270 Johann DeKalb on Emerson Place near Pratt Institute and P.S. 287 Bailey K. Ashford on Navy Street, had more spots open than applicants to fill them.

For example, in 2009, P.S. 67 had 11 applicants and 18 spots to fill. By 2012, 52 children applied for those same 18 positions.

“It’s tough when there is nothing you can do about it,” said Sylvester Williams, father of two. “You apply and then you just have to sit back and wait.”

Children are admitted to schools based on a lottery process, with preference given to children who already have a sibling in the school, then to students who are zoned to the school.

For many parents dropping kids off at P.S. 11 in Fort Greene recently, all the worry turned out to be worth it. P.S. 11, the most sought-after school in the neighborhood, has a pre-K program that many parents described as “off the charts.”

“They take a holistic approach — teaching social and sharing skills along with the more academic programs,” Pierre said. “My daughter sits in the car on the ride home from school and tells me things that blow my mind. She is really learning.”

Here are some of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill's noteworthy public pre-K programs:

P.S. 11 Purvis J. Behan, 419 Waverly Ave.

P.S. 11, the most sought-after pre-K program in Fort Greene has 54 open slots for the upcoming school year. In 2012, only 15 percent of students who applied were admitted. There are three pre-K classes at the school, all of which are “play-based,” according to parents. Teachers focus on social and sharing skills. All pre-K students are guaranteed a spot in the kindergarten program, which parents say is much more academically challenging. 

P.S. 20 Clinton Hill, 225 Adelphi St.

With only 18 available pre-K spots, this school is in high demand. Only 6 percent of children were admitted in 2012.

Several parents raved about Emerica Garrett, the pre-K teacher.

“She gets the kids involved in exciting projects, from gardening to mural-painting to research (yes, a research project!) on Arctic animals, just to name a few,” a parent said on Insideschools. “The kids go outside to play most days and have even taken field trips.  They have art class, French class, and music and singing classes.”

Another parent on Insideschools added, "Ms. Garrett's classroom was recently chosen by the DOE to be filmed for an instructional video on best practices in Early Childhood Education to be shown to teachers city-wide."

P.S. 46 Edward C. Blum, 100 Clermont Ave.

P.S. 46 offers the only pre-K Spanish-English dual language program in the neighborhood, with instruction and classroom conversation conducted in both languages. Almost half of the students who applied in 2012 where admitted to the 54 available spaces. 

P.S. 56 Lewis H. Latimer, 170 Gates Ave.

Located on the Clinton Hill/Bedford-Stuyvesant border, P.S. 56 was called “one of the best kept secrets in Bed-Stuy” by parent Lett Cartegna. Only 18 pre-K spots are available, and the school saw 95 applicants in 2012. Insideschools describes the pre-K room as “particularly appealing.”

P.S. 67 Charles A. Dorsey, 51 St. Edwards St.

Last year, P.S. 67 got a new principal, Temica Francis, and since then parents say the school is on the rise. Francis "hired a new school support network and brought in professional development and began making connections to get more resources for the school, such as a new media center for students and iPads for teachers,” according to SchoolBook.

One grandmother, Juanita Valerie, whose children and grandchildren attended P.S.67, said she was not happy with the school but it has been improving.

"They're holding that school together," she said. "It has survived a lot."

P.S. 270 Johann DeKalb, 241 Emerson Pl.

This small 200-student school near the Pratt Institute boasts a tight-knit community.

"Everyone knows everyone," said substitute teacher Lenai Hooten. "The teachers are lovely."

P.S. 270 has 18 slots open for incoming pre-K students and with 51 students vying for those spots in 2012, student usually have a decent chance of admission. Pre-K students start to learn numbers and reading while also focusing on the arts, according to parents.

P.S. 287 Bailey K. Ashford, 50 Navy St.

With a new library, playground and science lab, this school offers a wide variety of activities and resources to its students. The pre-K program focuses on academics with an emphasis on writing skills. Insideschools was impressed with the pre-K program, noting, "Even the pre-kindergartners were organizing their stories and labeling them with a beginning, middle and end."

There are 18 slots available for pre-K children for the upcoming school year.