UPPER WEST SIDE — The Department of Education is adding a dozen kindergarten spots at a popular elementary school to help alleviate a long waitlist, after previously saying it would send those students to other schools, officials said.
The DOE is growing each of P.S. 199's six kindergarten classes by two students each — a move that will create 12 seats for a portion of the 38 students currently on the waitlist at the West 70th Street school.
“To accommodate the needs of wait-listed students — and the needs of students already enrolled — we are opening an additional 12 seats at P.S. 199 and will have two educators in every kindergarten class," said DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield, noting the educators will be a teacher and a paraprofessional.
Any remaining students on the waitlist after the 12 new seats are filled will get offers at other nearby schools, including P.S. 452, Hartfield said.
The decision to accomodate the current waitlist at P.S. 199 by adding new spots there or sending wait-listed students to other schools marks a reversal from the DOE's position this past spring.
The department also backpedaled by saying it would not place any of the wait-listed students at P.S. 191, one of two schools in Manhattan to be designated "persistently dangerous" by the state.
In April, Superintendent Ilene Altschul insisted that wait-listed students would have to take offers at P.S. 191, which has room.
Parents have petitioned for months to get their children, who are zoned to attend the school, off the waitlist.
Andy Davis, a wait-listed parent, suspects the DOE's recent change in policy is related to the state revelation about P.S. 191's safety issues.
However, the DOE said the change was spurred by the concerns of wait-listed parents.
But the decision is being received with mixed feelings by parents and education leaders.
Joe Fiordaliso, president of CEC 3, said the last-minute shift to enlarge kindergarten classes is tantamount to a betrayal by the city. Critics say adding students to the already-overcrowded school will only mean more problems as those students get older and have no seats in future classrooms.
"The DOE has lost all credibility in my eyes," he said. "They broke their promise again. They’re jamming even more kids into a school that’s severely overcrowded."