WINDSOR TERRACE — A popular Windsor Terrace school has been forced to waitlist kindergarten applicants this year despite a recent rezoning that shrank the school's zone.
P.S. 154 wait-listed 18 families for the 2016-17 kindergarten class, according to Department of Education data released Tuesday. It's the first time the well-regarded District 15 school has ever had a waitlist, said Principal Eric Havlik.
“It's unfortunate,” Havlik said in an interview Thursday. “I expect that the situation should resolve itself, but I certainly feel for the families.”
The waitlist comes amid a citywide drop in waitlists, and two years after the DOE shrank P.S. 154's zone during a controversial rezoning that also drew new lines for the P.S. 130, P.S. 230 and P.S. 131 zones.
Havlik said the rezoning allowed P.S. 154 to keep its science lab, which was in danger of being turned into classroom space to accommodate swelling numbers of students.
P.S 154 eliminated its pre-K program to save space in 2014 and cut its kindergarten sections from five to four last year, Havlik said.
The rezoning helped the school stave off a space crunch in 2015-16, but not this year, according to the principal.
“Rezoning is a complicated process and from year-to-year it’s hard to predict how many kindergarten students we’re going to have,” Havlik said.
Most of the wait-listed families were offered spots at P.S. 295 in the South Slope on 18th Street and Sixth Avenue, according to an email sent to families on the list. P.S. 295 is offering to give those families tours of the school on March 21 at 9 a.m., P.S. 295 parent coordinator Sergio Borrero told parents in the email.
School leaders at P.S. 154 will monitor the waitlist and re-assess the situation after the April 8 deadline for parents to pre-register for kindergarten, Havlik said.
District 15, which sprawls across Sunset Park, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope and Kensington, has four other schools with waitlists for 2016-17, according to DOE figures. P.S. 58 in Carroll Gardens, P.S. 39 in Park Slope, and P.S. 94 and P.S. 169 in Sunset Park.
Perennially popular P.S. 321 in Park Slope — where parents have been known to use fake addresses to get their kids into the school — did not have a waitlist this year. The school last had a waitlist in 2014-15 for the first time in 20 years, parent coordinator Deb Orr said.
The wait-listed parents at P.S. 154 include Seth Fletcher, whose family moved to "sleepy" Windsor Terrace three years ago in part because their new apartment was just two blocks away from P.S. 154, he said. After years of lengthy commutes to day care and pre-K, Fletcher was looking forward to walking his daughter to kindergarten nearby.
"All of our neighbors' kids last year got in, and I never heard anything about a waitlist, so we were really surprised," Fletcher said. "It's really crazy."
Fletcher counts himself lucky though — he and his family are moving to northern Westchester next month, so his daughter won't need a spot at P.S. 154 after all.
"I'm so glad we’re getting out of this," Fletcher said. "It's like there's no safety from this unless you send your kids to private school."
Schools consultant Joyce Szuflita of NYC School Help advises parents on waitlists not to panic. "Try and stay as calm as you can," Szuflita wrote on her blog this week. "Many of you (and I will actually say a prayer, that all of you) will get a seat back at your zoned school, sooner or later."