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Waitlisted Queens Parents May Ship Children to Brooklyn Catholic School

By Jeanmarie Evelly | April 22, 2013 7:53am | Updated on April 22, 2013 8:51am

LONG ISLAND CITY — Some parents in Hunters Point whose children were wait-listed at the only nearby public school are taking matters into their own hands — by considering schools outside the neighborhood and even leaving the area altogether.

The wait list for kindergarten at P.S. 78 grew by nearly 50 percent from last year, with 31 students, compared to 22 in 2012, standing by for a seat. The jump comes despite an expansion into a new school building planned for this fall, and the addition of an extra kindergarten class next year.

Parents say the DOE isn't working fast enough to build new schools in the rapidly expanding neighborhood, and that the lack of nearby options is forcing many to look elsewhere — including Brooklyn.

About a dozen Hunters Point parents are looking to send their children to St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy in Greenpoint, working with the school to arrange for a shuttle service to take their children across the Kosciuszko Bridge, parents say.

Local mom Diane Howells, who has long planned to send her 3-year-old son to private school, is working with some of the wait-listed parents to organize the transportation to the $4,750-a-year school.

"The parents will be working with the school to pay and/or subsidize those costs, which will be lower than hiring a bus company ourselves," she wrote in an e-mail.

The price for the service was still being negotiated.

Jyoti Parekh, a mother of three who moved to Hunters Point in 2006, is considering Catholic school for her son, Saajan, 4, who landed on the P.S. 78 wait list and has yet to be accepted to the other public and charters schools to which she applied.

She says she always assumed she would be able to send her children to the local public school and has been taken aback by how stressful the application process has been.

"We bought in the area knowing the situation, but not really knowing how severe this is," she said, adding that fears a parochial program like St. Stan's might be her only choice. "That’s money in our pocket that we could be saving, but that’s my option."

Coco Dorneanu's 4-year-old daughter Eavan is on the wait list at P.S. 78, where she's now in pre-K. She said she's applied to several charter schools as a backup, but that they're all too far from home.

"I do not want my child on a bus for 30 to 40 minutes extra a day," she said. "All her friends are at P.S. 78. This is our school. It's this sense of community."

Dorneanu said she's confident the wait list will go down at P.S. 78 and Eavan will eventually get in. But she's still worried about what it will mean for Hunters Point if the DOE doesn't start opening new schools, and fears P.S. 78 will suffer from overcrowded classrooms as more families move to the neighborhood.

"The population has just skyrocketed," she said. "They should be building the school now in order to accommodate for this."

The DOE has acknowledged that the number of families enrolling in kindergarten across the city has risen.

"We’re working as hard and as quickly as possible to keep up with it, both through re-zonings and constructing as many new buildings as we can," spokesman Devon Puglia said in a statement. "During this Administration alone, we’ve created over 125,000 new seats to serve K-12 students."

P.S. 78, which is located on the first floor of the CityLights building at 48-09 Center Blvd., will expand into a 542-seat K-8 school this fall, moving some of its classes to a newly constructed building at 46-08 5th St.

The DOE is also opening a new school building near the Long Island City waterfront, which will house a relocated high school and a new middle school.

But some say it isn't enough.

"Hunters Point, Long Island City, is an incredibly desirable place to live. We want families to choose that neighborhood as their home, for their future," said local City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who says he's been pushing with parents for more schools. "But in order for families to want to move to the neighborhood and stay in the neighborhood, they're going to want to know that they're going to be able to send their child to the neighborhood public school."

Parekh, whose son Saajan is on the wait list, said she never expected to have this much trouble finding a school when she moved to Hunters Point seven years ago.

"I feel like I don’t want to deal with this in middle school," she said. "We'll be making the move to the suburbs, I think, by that point."