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Why Kindergarten Offer Letters Don't Give Families Their Waitlist Positions

By Nicole Levy | March 27, 2017 10:39am
 There are 30 kids on the waitlist at P.S. 87, a school on the Upper West Side.
There are 30 kids on the waitlist at P.S. 87, a school on the Upper West Side.
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Facebook/P.S. 87

What if your child's kindergarten offer letter for the school of your dreams specified that she was 94th on the waitlist?

Would it be a wake-up call, compelling you to focus your efforts on pursuing other options, as one member of the Upper West Side's District 3 Community Education Council suggested at a meeting last week?

Would it save the parent coordinator at that school the time and effort it takes to answer inquiries from all the families on waitlists?

“We do try to manage expectations to the extent that we’re able,” said Daniel Hildreth, who works for the Department of Education's Office of Student Enrollment and was invited to the meeting to speak about the many area schools that have waitlists.

Still, he said, "It’s a little tricky giving out positions for a couple of reasons."

There were 1,083 students on waitlists at their zoned schools as of March, down 4 percent from last year, according to DOE data. Thousands more children are on waitlists for schools they are not zoned for — and many children are on multiple waitlists. Students get waitlisted at every school that they ranked higher than the school at which they were offered a seat.

Though the DOE's central office oversees the initial kindergarten admissions process through its online application, the schools then manage their own waitlists based on their own admissions priorities, according to DOE spokesman Will Mantell.

Those priorities can and do bump enrollees up and down the ranks, Mantell explained.

For instance, if you're on a waitlist for a school out of your zone, you might fall back a few notches on the waitlist if zoned families — perhaps newly moved to the area — apply to the school later.

"Zoned families have priority at the school," Hildreth said. "We’re prioritizing them."

Zoned families on waitlists, tend not to be bumped down if they apply on time, he added.

There may be a caveat to that rule, too, at some schools: late-applying siblings.

"We shy away from giving exact numbers for that reason," Hildreth said. "They can change based on a couple different things and it’s hard to communicate this in a way that will make sense for everybody.”

► What to Do If Your Child Is Waitlisted for Kindergarten

The DOE does not specifically recommend schools provide families their waitlist numbers, according to Mantell, but it does encourage families to reach out to their schools.

Waitlists fluctuate throughout the spring and summer as schools send waitlisted families offers on a rolling basis and new zoned families apply, the DOE said. Many schools see waitlists shrink as families move away or accept offers at private schools, charters or gifted and talented programs.

And don't worry too much: the city guarantees all children born in 2012 a kindergarten spot.