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Brownstone Brooklyn's Coveted Schools Grapple with Kindergarten Waitlists

By Amy Zimmer | March 12, 2017 9:41pm
 Cobble Hill's P.S. 29 had a waitlist this year for zoned families.
Cobble Hill's P.S. 29 had a waitlist this year for zoned families.
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Facebook/PS 29 PTA

BROOKLYN —  Stress levels are high among Brownstone Brooklyn parents, where some of the most coveted elementary schools have kindergarten waitlists for students who live within their zones.

Twenty-two families last week found themselves on the waitlist at Brooklyn Heights' P.S. 8. A controversial rezoning last year appeared to solve the problem as all zoned applicants got offers last year for September’s incoming class. But the reprieve was temporary as the waitlist returned for the coming fall.

At P.S. 29 in neighboring Cobble Hill, 31 families were waitlisted — a rarity for the school, according to the parent coordinator.

At the nearby P.S. 58 in Carroll Gardens, 16 incoming kindergarteners who live in the school’s zone were put on the waitlist, an increase from a year ago when fewer than 10 children were waitlisted. The school this year had moved two of its three pre-K classes to an annex off-site to make room for upper grades. (P.S. 29 and P.S. 58 both faced a shortage of pre-K seats this past September for families who lived in the zone and already had a sibling in the school.)

“It’s such a sensitive and emotional issue,” said P.S. 29’s parent coordinator Monica Gutierrez-Kirwan, who spent hours listening to parents’ concerns. “We are trying to be as transparent as we can with our parents.”

The Department of Education sent 170 offers for 150 seats, worrying the waitlisted families even more, parents told DNAinfo, since a child who is No. 30 on the waitlist would actually need 50 other families to decline in order to get a spot.

There is often movement off of waitlists after the registration period ends Apr. 7 and beyond, as parents end up sending their children to private schools, gifted and talented programs (offers come in May and families have until mid-June to decide.)  Also families don’t need to show their address when applying online, so sometimes when they come to register at their local schools, they may be rejected because they don't live in the correct area.

The school has never had this number of families on the waitlist, Gutierrez-Kirwan said.

“It’s new and uncharted territory for us,” she said. “The school is such a part of the fabric of the neighborhood. It’s disheartening for parents.”

The issue is not new for P.S. 8, which had a waitlist of 50 students two years ago.

The school’s website posted an FAQ for waitlisted families based on the experience from 2015.

“We understand the 2017-18 Kindergarten wait list is stressful for your family," school staff wrote in the letter, which urged families to visit whatever school their child was placed in.

This year, there were nearly 190 in-zone families who applied at P.S. 8 — up from 148 last year, officials said in the letter. DOE officials gave offers to 165 of this year's applicants for the 125 available seats, the letter explained. 

Last year, there were 35 siblings in the applicant pool — and after attrition, all of the applicants were admitted without needing a waitlist, the letter added.

“At this time, it is not clear why there has been a significant jump in applications for this academic year,” the letter added.

Other schools in District 13 with waitlists include the increasingly popular P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights and Clinton Hill's P.S. 20, both of which have waitlists with fewer than 10 students.

In District 15, two schools in the overcrowded neighborhood of Sunset Park — P.S. 94 and P.S. 169 — had waitlists of 27 and 24 students, respectively. DOE officials are hoping to build more schools in the area, according to the School Construction Authority.