LONG ISLAND CITY — Dozens of kindergarten students zoned for P.S./I.S. 78 in Hunters Point landed on the school's waitlist this year, rekindling local parents' concerns that there aren't enough school seats to keep up with the neighborhood's growing population.
P.S. 78, the only elementary school in the waterfront area, waitlisted 50 kids this year, according to Department of Education data. The students are among more than 1,200 citywide who were shut out of their zoned kindergarten seats this year.
Kindergarten admissions at P.S. 78 have historically been competitive. Though fewer than 10 zoned students were waitlisted last year, there were 31 kids waitlisted in 2013, prompting the city to add another kindergarten class to fit them.
But there still aren't enough seats to meet demand in the family-friendly neighborhood, parents said.
"It's gotten progressively worse," said Stephanie Gitlin, who moved to Long Island City from Manhattan in 2008. "When I first moved in, parents didn't really worry about not getting their kids into school — now parents have trouble getting into daycare."
Her daughter goes to pre-K at a private school in Manhattan and will continue there next year, though Gitlin also applied to P.S. 78 to see if there was a chance she could get in. They ended up on the waitlist, and were offered a seat at P.S. 11 in Woodside instead.
Difficulty getting a spot in the local school sends some families packing, Gitlin said.
"Many people, once their children are becoming school age, they're moving out of the neighborhood," she said.
The Department of Education said that all families who applied to kindergarten before the deadline were offered a seat somewhere in the system, and that the number of schools with zoned waitlists dropped 25 percent this year.
"We are continuing to work with families in this school community to ensure that every student has a high-quality kindergarten education," spokesman Jason Fink said in a statement.
While it's true that the number of schools with zoned waitlists is down — 51 compared to 63 in 2014 — the number of students who were waitlisted at their zoned school remained roughly the same compared to last year, numbers show.
Waitlisted children often end up getting a seat at their zoned school, as space usually opens up when accepted students opt for private school or a Gifted & Talented program instead.
Khalil Hymore is hoping a spot will become available for his child, who is also waitlisted at P.S. 78.
"Right now we're just in a wait-and-see," he said.
Hymore worries that getting a seat at the local school will only get harder, as residential development is expected to bring even more families to the area in the coming years — including the first two buildings of the planned Hunters Point South development, which will open this spring with more than 900 apartments.
Though it does include space for a high school, middle school and special education program, P.S. 78 remains the only public school in the immediate area for families with younger children.
"I don’t understand how these big towers keep getting built without proper infrastructure," Hymore said.