LONG ISLAND CITY — The Department of Education is adding more classes to a Hunters Point school to accommodate dozens of kindergarten students who were initially waitlisted there, officials announced this week.
P.S./I.S. 78, the only elementary school in the growing waterfront neighborhood, will get two extra kindergarten and two extra pre-k classes for the 2015/2016 school year — enough to fit the 50 zoned kids who'd landed on the kindergarten waitlist, officials said.
The school had to make a similar addition in 2013, when an extra kindergarten class was added to fit the 31 students waitlisted that year. There will be six kindergarten classes this upcoming school year, according to the DOE.
“We are very pleased to be able to accommodate all zoned Kindergarten applicants currently on the waitlist at PS 78 and we look forward to continuing our dialogue with parents and the entire school community on how to best ensure every child has access to a high-quality Kindergarten seat,” DOE spokesman Jason Fink said in a statement.
But parents worry that the lack of school seats will continue to be a problem in Hunters Point, and fear the situation could lead to the elimination of middle school grades at P.S./I.S. 78 to make space for younger students.
The school expanded to become a K-8 in 2013, when the city opened a second building for it on nearby Fifth Street.
"[The community] fought very hard to get that school built," said Jillian Tangen, a local mom who started a petition calling on the city to build more schools in the neighborhood, which has earned more than 1,000 signatures. "We want to keep the school a K-8."
At a community meeting Monday night, District 30 Superintendent Philip Composto said the city may consider phasing out the school's middle school grades unless another school building is constructed or leased in the coming years.
"We can sustain this for another year. After that, if we don’t get our building then we would need to start to truncate," he said, according to a video of the meeting posted online.
He added that he's "confident" another school will be built in the neighborhood, and that they plan to include the need for an additional building in the DOE's Capital Plan that will come out this fall.
"I just want to let you know we’re all on the same page, every single one of us wants our kindergarten children to have a place here, and we want everybody to have the school," Composto said, according to the video. "We don’t want to give up our K-8."
At the same meeting, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer noted that there are other possible locations for a new school beside building from scratch, including carving out space in one of the many new developments being built in the neighborhood.
"We need to continue working to ensure there are adequate seats for all children who live in Long Island City as well as maintain the existing middle school programs," Van Bramer said in a statement.