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Popular Downtown Schools Add Whopping 148 Children to Wait-List

LOWER MANHATTAN — With far more applications than seats, most of Downtown’s popular elementary schools have placed an even larger number of youngsters on the dreaded kindergarten wait-list than last year.

Instead of acceptance letters, 148 lower Manhattan families were sent notice on Thursday of their child’s number on a wait-list for kindergarten at their zoned schools.

Last Spring, only 99 kids were wait-listed.

TriBeCa’s beloved P.S. 234 had the most children wait-listed — 50 — but P.S. 89 in northern Battery Park City and P.S. 276 in southern Battery Park City weren’t far behind, with 44 and 41 kids, respectively, now waiting for acceptance at each school.

Even the Peck Slip School, which opened its first kindergarten class last fall in its temporary space at Tweed Courthouse, has a wait-list of 13 zoned students.

The Spruce Street School, however, does not have a wait-list. It made offers to 72 families and has 75 spots available, the principal said.

The schools' wait-list numbers were revealed Thursday at a meeting of New York Assemblyman Sheldon Silver’s School Overcrowding Task Force, with Department of Education Chancellor Dennis Walcott in attendance.

Principals of local schools, parents and community board members emphasized the dire need for more schools Downtown, as the number of young families in the neighborhood continues to grow — thanks, in large part, to the reputation of the good public schools, they said. But it's a reputation, parents said, that may erode if overcrowding issues affect their science, music, art and other programs.

Earlier this year, P.S. 276 had to sacrifice half its pre-K program to accommodate the crush of incoming kindergartners.

“The DOE has been helpful in finding Band-Aids for our problems,” said Community Board 1 education chairwoman and P.S. 234 parent Tricia Joyce. “But we need a permanent solution.”

According to estimates presented at the meeting by Eric Greenleaf, another P.S. 234 parent and school overcrowding advocate, lower Manhattan will be short more than 1,000 seats for school children by 2015, even with the new 712-student Peck Slip school under construction.

This year's kindergarten enrollment numbers, however, are still in flux, and some of the wait-listed children will likely win spots as other families choose private school or gifted-and-talented programs instead.

The city won't tell wait-listed families for at least another month or two where their children will go to kindergarten. In previous years, alternate offers for wait-listed Downtown families included seats at P.S. 3 in Greenwich Village and P.S. 130 in Chinatown.

Walcott did not address the immediate issue of where next fall's students will go, but he did promise to continue serious talks with parents and community members to create a long-term plan for the increasing number of students.

"We'll keep working together," Walcott said. "We want to lay the foundation for the future."