D.O.E. presents familiar news on Downtown schools

BY ALINE REYNOLDS  |  The total number of kindergarteners anticipated to attend Lower Manhattan elementary schools is higher than it was this time last year, according to the city Dept. of Education, a fact that has Downtown parents concerned.

Elizabeth Rose, the D.O.E.’s former director of portfolio planning for Lower Manhattan, delivered the news to Downtown parents at NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s School Overcrowding Task Force meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9.

This time last year, 362 prospective kindergarteners were zoned for Downtown schools, down from the March 2010 count of 436.

“This year, we have 407, so we’re kind of right in between those two data points,” Rose pointed out. “But there’s still a ways to go between this number and March 2010. We’ll be expecting more kids to come over the next couple of weeks.”

Still, Rose expects that attrition, which is around 20 percent, will bring the total count down come fall.

Rose also announced her new role as chief of staff of the D.O.E.’s Office of Public Affairs, which she said entails outreach to Silver and other elected officials. Rose introduced her successor, Drew Patterson, who has for the last year and a half served as the D.O.E.’s portfolio planner for Queens.

“I’m not going very far,” Rose quipped, and added she would continue to attend Silver’s task force meetings.

The local school principals in attendance read off the numbers of the kindergarten pre-registration period, which ends on March 2.

P.S. 234 has collected 156 kindergarten intake applications thus far that comprise 52 siblings of older children in the school and 104 non-siblings, according to principal Lisa Ripperger. Though the school is expecting to lose around 40 prospective students to private school between now and the fall, administrators are already anticipating waitlists.

“If after March 2, we see more applicants than seats available, we’ll decide if we have to do a lottery or not,” said P.S. 234 Parent Coordinator Magda Lenski. “Based on these numbers, I expect we’ll have to hold a lottery.”

The Spruce Street School, which will offer three kindergarten classes next year, has already received 53 applications, 30 percent of which are siblings.

“We anticipate 30 or so more [applications] based on tours and other outreach,” said principal Nancy Harris.

Based on the current numbers, Harris doesn’t expect to have a waitlist next year.

“So far, we’re not frighteningly close to 75, and we expect some attrition as well, but you never know,” said Harris.

Ninety-nine children have pre-registered for P.S. 276, which will have four kindergarten classes next year, according to principal Terri Ruyter. The principal added however, that she expects 20-to-25 more applicants, which would result in reaching capacity.

Meanwhile, Peck Slip school, which will incubate next year at the Tweed Courthouse, already has 35 kindergarten applications.

“We are on target for 50, so I think we’ll be opening the two sections just as planned,” said principal Maggie Siena. “And in the event that there are waitlisting issues, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

The next overcrowding task force meeting will be held Monday, April 23, at 3:30 p.m.

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