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As Kindergarten Waitlists Clear in Forest Hills, Pre-K Seats Are in Demand

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | June 12, 2015 9:14am | Updated on June 15, 2015 8:50am
 Parents say there are not enough pre-K seats at public schools in Forest Hills.
Parents say there are not enough pre-K seats at public schools in Forest Hills.
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YM/YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood

QUEENS — All waitlisted kindergartners zoned for two coveted Forest Hills schools have received a seat, the Department of Education said Thursday.

But now some parents say there aren't enough pre-K seats at those schools after the city cut several classes to make room for the kindergartners.

In May, the DOE decided to cut a pre-K class at P.S. 144, and add only one of the three pre-K classes originally proposed at P.S. 196 to make room for 75 additional kindergarten seats for the 2015-2016 school year, officials said. 

More than 120 kindergartners were initially waitlisted between those two schools. 

Some kindergarten seats also became recently available after parents enrolled their children in gifted-and-talented programs, according to Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz's office.

As a result, as of Thursday, all kindergartners zoned for P.S. 144 and P.S. 196 who applied before the deadline have been accommodated, according to the DOE.

The city said it decided to cut pre-K classes because, unlike kindergarten, it's not a mandatory program.

But now dozens of families who applied for pre-K seats at those two schools said they have been waitlisted, including 34 children at P.S. 144 and about 40 at P.S. 196, whose siblings already attend the schools.

Parents may still have pre-K options, however. As a result of the city's pre-K expansion, pre-K seats will be available at various community-based organizations, said Christina Prince, Koslowitz's director of community affairs.

"The good news is that even those people who don’t get a public school seat for pre-K ... can still go to a free universal pre-K program in a local organization," Prince said.

The Education Department noted that there will be another opportunity to apply for pre-K starting June 22, when the second round of applications starts.

Nevertheless, a number of parents and elected officials urged the DOE to find a way to add more pre-K seats at local public schools.

“Cutting pre-K does not solve this issue at all,” said Pam Chowayou, a local parent who has been advocating for creating more space at Forest Hills schools. 

“It’s just an easy fix for one year but you are going to run into this problem again next year.”

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who recently toured the schools with DOE officials in search of available space, said in an email Thursday that the DOE is still reviewing the possibility of adding more pre-K seats at P.S. 144 "through modules or other means."

In May, several elected officials, including Katz, Koslowitz and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, sent a letter to Chancellor Carmen Fariña saying that scaling back on pre-K seats is "unacceptable."

They also said that they would support using trailers at the schools for a short period of time if there was no other way to alleviate overcrowding.