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BY KAITLYN MEADE | Kindergarten registration for Lower Manhattan’s District 2 ends March 1, but the applications are already overflowing for many of Downtown’s public schools. The city’s Department of Education is looking for ways to open more space in the school said Tricia Joyce, head of C.B. 1’s Youth and Education Committee at the full board meeting Tuesday night.
At the full board meeting on Feb. 26, Joyce reported that the applications for Battery Park City’s P.S. 276 would probably swell to 150 students.
Downtowners have feared the school would be forced to take five kindergarten classes, but 150 students, if enrolled, would be enough to fill six classrooms.
P.S. 234 in Tribeca and P.S. 89 in Battery Park City will also have to open waitlists for zoned students, though the Peck Slip and Spruce Street schools are on target for the 2013-14 school year.
P.S. 276’s parent coordinator Erica Weldon said there were 134 children pre-registered and that she projected 154 total in the last two days — five or six kindergarten classes when the school was designed to hold only three.
In fact, the 55 Battery Place facility took in five kindergarten classes last year, despite fears that continuing overcrowding will sacrifice science and art rooms. Classes. That will not be possible this year, said Weldon, because “in the past, we didn’t have all the grades. We’re a growing school.” The upcoming school year will be the first to have Pre-K to eighth grade.
Last November, P.S. 276 parents started an online petition to limit the kindergarten classrooms to the three it was designed for.
The D.O.E. has not yet announced the number of kindergarten classrooms P.S. 276 will have.
Joyce mentioned in an email that the Principal Terri Ruyter gave a report to C.B. 1 about possible solutions to accommodate a fourth kindergarten class this fall, which could mean borrowing a room intended for another purpose, such as a music room or the sensory gym used by special education school that shares the building.
Another way might be to move the Pre-K program out of P.S. 276, and into the Peck Slip School. The D.O.E. recently announced that the Peck Slip School, currently in incubation at Tweed Courthouse, will be opening a half-day Pre-K program of one class in the morning and one in the afternoon.
“The creation of the Pre-K for the Peck Slip School, we believe, is a precursor to the elimination of the Pre-K’s at P.S. 276 so that they could use these rooms to go forward with the five kindergartens which would devastate the school,” Paul Hovitz co-chairperson of C.B. 1’s Youth and Education Committee, said at the community board’s meeting Feb. 26.
“This would serve to dismantle programs, jeopardize upper grade sections from opening or continue with the sections they have, and force class sizes near or over 30 for the first grades,” Joyce explained.
Peck Slip’s principal, Maggie Siena, confirmed the Pre-K program but said it was a short-term solution only.
“It’s a one shot deal,” she said. “After 2014, we won’t have space for a Pre-K class.”
This year, it is possible because their building has six classrooms, with only four in use this fall for kindergarten and first grade. The school can only accept two classes of kindergarten per year so that in 2014, the last year before they move into the larger space at Peck Slip, they will have six classes. The Pre-K program will have 18 students per class (one morning and one afternoon).
The Peck Slip School is right on target for student registration this year, with 53 registered for the two designated classrooms currently housed in the Tweed Courthouse. It’s slightly more than last year, which was their opening year.
Siena said they opened with just shy of 50 kids registered for Kindergarten for the 2012-13 school year.
P.S. 276 is not the only school that will have a significant waitlist. Tribeca’s P.S. 234 is more than a classroom over their 125-seat capacity. There were 163 kindergartners signed up for Fall 2013 at the last count, said Magda Lenski, the school’s parent coordinator, though she was still in the midst of tallying the results.
The school, at 292 Greenwich St., is slated for five kindergarten classes this year. Like P.S. 276, they were able to open an extra class for waitlisted students because of the way the classrooms were set up, but it will not be possible this year.
“We don’t have the physical space,” said Lenski.
Over 50 of the zoned students have siblings in the school, meaning that the remaining zoned students will have to wait on a March lottery to see if they can attend in the fall.
Registration is not first come first served, so zoned students who signed up the first day will not have an advantage over parents who sign up before the deadline.
P.S. 89 at 201 Warren St. has 101 zoned students pre-registered for kindergarten — 26 over the 75-seat capacity. “We probably also have a dozen [applications] from unzoned students, but we won’t be able to consider them,” said parent coordinator Connie Schraft.
The parent coordinator Julie Lam of the Spruce Street School , at 12 Spruce St., said they were “on track for three classes of students,” which is about 75, but was unable to say what the exact number was until registration closed on Friday.
With reporting by JOSH ROGERS