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City to Install Trailer Classroom for Waitlisted Pre-K Kids in LIC: DOE

 The new spots will be offered to students waitlisted at P.S. 78, another full-day pre-k program nearby.
The new spots will be offered to students waitlisted at P.S. 78, another full-day pre-k program nearby.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

LONG ISLAND CITY — The city will set up a trailer in Hunters Point this fall to accommodate dozens of students who were waitlisted for pre-K programs in the neighborhood, following outcry from parents who called for more local school seats.

New pre-K seats will be housed in a trailer, which the Department of Education calls a "transportable classroom unit" (TCU), on a lot on 49th Avenue off of 5th Street and will have space for two classes of 36 students total, officials announced this week.

The new slots will be part of an existing program in the neighborhood, the Pre-K Center, and seats will be offered first to students currently waitlisted there. Offers will also be extended to students waitlisted for P.S./I.S. 78, the other nearby full-day program in the area.

The extra seats will be enough to accommodate all of the kids waitlisted at the Pre-K Center, and while there's still a waitlist at P.S/I.S. 78, many of those reflect students who have already accepted offers to another program, according to the Department of Education.

"We'll build on this progress and continue to work with families and partners in serving the Long Island City community," DOE spokesman Will Mantell said.

Jen Theien, head of the Gantry Parent Association, which has been calling on the DOE to find a solution for local wait-listed families, said she was thrilled by the news.

"It's amazing that they heard us," she said.

The city's trailer classrooms often get a bad rap, and the Bloomberg administration once vowed to stop using them entirely — though thousands of students across the city were still being taught in them as recently as 2012.

DOE officials say the new pre-k facility in Long Island City will have its own bathrooms, play area and meals that will be provided on-site. The kids will also have access to the playground at nearby I.S./P.S. 78 a short walk away on Center Boulevard.

Theien, a former teacher who says she's previously worked out of portable classrooms, said she'd be fine if her wait-listed daughter were assigned to the new site.

"Some of them are bigger than a classroom," she said of the TCUs. "They have everything."

It's also nearby, she added. She and many other families whose children were waitlisted were first offered pre-k seats instead at schools in Astoria or Dutch Kills, which some say are too far of a commute.

The 36 new seats are in addition to another 40 seats the DOE added to the program at the Pre-K Center last month.

The city also added an extra kindergarten class at I.S./P.S. 78 for the upcoming year in order to fit all the kids who applied, marking the first time in years that the popular school had no kindergarten waitlist.

In a statement, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said the new seats will ensure "that all of the neighborhood's children can attend Pre-K close to home."

"I will continue to push for these seats to be made permanent," he said.

The city is expected to eventually build three new schools in Long Island City in the coming years, officials have said, including at least one located at the Hunters Point South development.