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Two Downtown Schools Cut Pre-K Programs Because of Overcrowding

By Irene Plagianos | January 31, 2014 8:47am
 A crowded lunch room at P.S. 276.
A crowded lunch room at P.S. 276.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

LOWER MANHATTAN — Despite a tremendous demand for more pre-K seats, two Downtown public schools will be forced to shut down their pre-K programs next fall, to make room for incoming kindergartners.

Battery Park City’s P.S. 276 and the Peck Slip School, currently located in Tweed Courthouse while its permanent South Street Seaport building is under construction, will not offer any pre-K classes for the 2014-15 school year, the schools’ principals told DNAinfo New York.

The latest pre-K cut is a blow to a neighborhood known for quality schools but a surplus of students. In 2012, the four Downtown public schools offering pre-K received a total of 1,776 applications for just 194 seats, according to the Department of Education.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing to offer full-day pre-K to all New York City children by the fall of 2015, though the mayor disagrees with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over whether to raise taxes to pay for it.

However, in Lower Manhattan, the trend over the past several years has been toward cutting pre-K seats, not adding them.

To accommodate the crush of new kindergartners, P.S. 276 already slashed half of its 72-seat pre-K program in 2013. That left the school with just two half-day pre-K classes of 18 students each this school year — a difficult loss for a program that in 2012 had 463 applicants, according to DOE figures.

P.S. 276 principal Terri Ruyter said there was no way to continue accommodating pre-K given the growing need for kindergarten space, but she hopes to bring it back at some point.

“As you know, downtown schools are bursting at the seams,” Ruyter wrote in an email. “As our school has grown to have a full cohort of students K-8, we have run out of classroom space.

“We have hopes that we will be able to add a pre-K program again in the future once our enrollment patterns settle down,” she added.

The Peck Slip School, which launched in Tweed with two kindergarten classes in 2012, ran its first 36-seat pre-K program this school year. The two half-day classes of 18 students were a small boon to the neighborhood, but principal Maggie Siena said the school simply doesn't have the room to continue the classes in its temporary space.

Siena was also unsure of whether the school would have spots for a pre-K program when its new 712-seat building opens in the fall of 2015.

School overcrowding forced TriBeCa’s P.S. 234 to shutter its pre-K program several years ago.

The other three Downtown public elementary schools, P.S. 89, the Spruce Street School and P.S. 150, expect to continue offering pre-K programs next school year, the schools’ principals said.

P.S. 89 will continue with its morning and afternoon half-day pre-K classes, capped at 16 students each. In 2012, the program was deluged with 502 applicants for its 32 spots.

The area's other half-day pre-K, in the new Spruce Street School, had more than 400 students apply for its 72 seats in 2012.

P.S. 150, the neighborhood’s only full-day universal pre-K program, will once again have 18 seats available, principal Jennifer Bonnet said.