Principals brace for crowds as K registration begins

BY KAITLYN MEADE  |  Kindergarten registration opened up last week for public schools in New York City, and with more kids than previous years looking for K seats, it may be an even  tighter fit than last year.

The kindergarten registration period for Fall 2013 started Jan. 22 and ends March 1. While enrollment is certainly not first-come-first-served, educators are warning parents to register their kindergartners for schools now.

“If they’re considering public school, parents should make sure they’re registered at their locally zoned school,” said Principal Terri Ruyter of the Battery Park City School (P.S. 276). “The more accurate account we have about how many kids in the neighborhood need seats, the better we can plan.”

Some parents who are “not paying attention” show up on Sept. 1 and expect to get a school seat, Ruyter said. Others, who initially register for their zoned school but later opt for private or alternative education, should make sure to let the public schools know that that seat is free.

“There are other people on the waitlist,” Ruyter noted. “It’s being a good community member.”

This is all the more pressing for P.S. 276 because of Downtown’s now notorious school overcrowding. Last year, P.S. 276 opened an online petition to ask city and state representatives to find other spaces for Kindergarten students.

The petition begins by warning that the “short-sighted fixes” have pushed the capacity of the school, and jeopardizes its future, particularly for its specialized, science, art and Pre-K programs. “Since we opened our doors, the D.O.E. has forced us to take on additional kindergarten classes (4 classes in 2010, 5 classes in 2011, and 5 classes in 2012.)”

The petition states that as of Oct. 1, 2012, kindergarten was 65 percent over capacity, with five sections rather than the three sections it was initially designed for — leaving no room for the fifth grade classes set to open in the 2013-2014 school year.

When asked if P.S. 276 will have to take on yet another additional kindergarten class this year, Ruyter said she did not know. As for the ever-increasing pool of students, she said that there was a team of parents, educators and representatives who were monitoring the situation and looking for solutions. As for enrollment so far this year, she said, “It’s going very well.”

The Peck Slip School, incubated in the Tweed Courthouse, opened in 2012 with two kindergarten classes and will also to have two K sections in the upcoming year.

“It’s looking more robust than last year, but similar,” said Principal Maggie Siena of January 2013 registration. “I think we’re up to about 20 right now. I’m hoping we get 50, which is what we’re projected for.

The plan is for the school to have two classes of each grade until it moves into the Peck Slip Post Office location in 2015, which will allow it to expand to five kindergarten classes.

However, even these additions will not alleviate Downtown’s school overcrowding. The number of kids under 5 grew by 147 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to a report to the City Council by Eric Greenleaf, a professor at N.Y.U.’s Stern School of Business and member of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s School Overcrowding Task Force.

In the 2012-13 school year, elementary schools in Community District 1 admitted 72 more kindergartners than they have space for. If the trend continues over the next three years, there may be a deficit of 250-300 kindergarten seats by 2015.

Families in District 2, which stretches from 96th St. in Manhattan down F.D.R. Drive and encompasses all of Lower Manhattan except for the Lower East Side, must apply in person at their zoned school. If families would like to apply to more than one zoned school, they may do so, but have to apply to each one separately and in person.

Priority is generally given to students who live within that school’s zone and who have siblings already attending.

The exception is P.S. 150 in Tribeca, which is the only non-zoned public school in Lower Manhattan. This K-5 school gives priority to students zoned to P.S. 89, P.S. 234, P.S.276, the Peck Slip School and Spruce Street School, whose siblings will be enrolled in 2013.

To apply, check with the Manhattan Enrollment Office at 333 7th Avenue, 12th floor. Students will receive offers from the school in April.

The D.O.E. is opening a new online application process this year for “unzoned schools” in District 1, a “choice” school district in the Lower East Side with no zoned schools.

To help parents browse schools in NYC, the D.O.E. recently published an elementary school directory, which can be found in schools as well as online under “Enrollment Publications.” The directories provide district-by-district data on elementary school ratings, statistics and school programs. For more info, visit nyc.gov/schools/kindergarten or call the Enrollment Office at 718-935-2009.

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