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Upper East Siders Compete for Scant Public Pre-K Seats

UPPER EAST SIDE — Pre-K is in high demand on the Upper East Side — but only a lucky few families win the sought-after seats.

The most competitive of the neighborhood's free public school programs — including newcomer P.S. 267 as well as stalwarts P.S. 158 and P.S. 198 — accepted fewer than 10 percent of the children who applied for the 2012-13 school year.

That's a marked decrease from prior years, when the hottest schools tended to admit closer to 20 percent of applicants.

"They are the the most coveted spots. That's a known fact," said Lyss Stern, an Upper East Side mother of two and founder of the Divalysscious Moms networking group. "Everyone wants a spot in those UES Universal pre-Ks. People even sometimes will move to a different location to try to get their child into a program."

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

Stern, who sent her kindergartner and third-grader to private preschool, said she would have preferred to send her children to public pre-K if there were more seats in the neighborhood.

"Had there been a pre-K for P.S. 59, we would have done anything we could to get them into that program," she said.

Stern added, though, that she's happy Upper East Side schools are so highly regarded as to create such strong demand.

"They're not good — they're amazing," she said.

Here are some of the Upper East Side's noteworthy public pre-K programs:

P.S. 267, East Side Elementary, 213 E. 63rd St.

The newcomer on the pre-K block, East Side Elementary nevertheless had cut-throat competition for its 18 morning and 18 afternoon slots for its half-day programs — slightly fewer than 7 percent of its 517 applicants were admitted for the 2012-13 school year. That means, statistically, P.S. 267 is the most competitive school in the district.

P.S. 158, The Bayard Taylor School, 1458 York Ave.

This was the second most competitive pre-K program to get into on the Upper East Side in 2012, admitting less than 8 percent of the 476 applicants, according to Department of Education statistics. The 36 students who managed to win a spot benefited from what one commenter on Insideschools called a "warm and loving" teacher who "manages the classroom well and differentiates instruction so that kids can be learning at their own level."

P.S. 198, Isador E. Ida Straus, 1700 Third Ave. 

The third most competitive pre-K in the Upper East Side in 2012 was P.S. 198, which had 281 applicants for 28 slots. Nancy Cabrero, a neighborhood native, is pushing for extensive faculty development in her first year as principal.

Ella Baker School, 317 E. 67th St.

Ella Baker admitted just more than 11 percent — or 54 out of 473 applicants — of children to pre-K in 2012. The school got major kudos from a commenter on Insideschools, who called it "probably in all honesty one of the best" public or private pre-K programs in the city. Perks at Ella Baker include yoga, swimming and Alvin Alley dance afterschool programs, parents said on Insideschools.

P.S./I.S. 267 Roosevelt Island School, 645 Main St.

This tight-knit institution boasts a diverse student body, according to Insideschools. Assistant Principal Jen Bartolino told the website that it's a "big city school with a small town feel," and a parent commenter lauded the pre-K instructor as "so refreshing... We only wish there was a full day option and additional PreK classes." Roosevelt admitted about 39 percent of its 93 applicants last year.