By Julie Shapiro
The dark, frigid air was Francesca Petrucci’s only company when she arrived at P.S. 234 just after 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday to register her son for kindergarten.
Another mother soon joined her in line outside the coveted Tribeca school, and a handful of other parents followed, taking their places in the below-freezing temperatures.
At 7 a.m., P.S. 234 Principal Lisa Ripperger arrived at the school and handed the parents numbered slips of paper, allowing them to go somewhere else to warm up before returning to the line.
“At some point today I’ll start feeling my toes again,” Petrucci said, back in line and in good spirits shortly before 9 a.m. “What we sacrifice for our children!”
Kindergarten enrollment at Downtown’s five elementary schools started this week, and worried parents immediately began jockeying for spots. While P.S. 234 and the other schools do not prioritize applications based on the order they are received, parents still camped out at P.S. 234 to make sure they registered early.
On Monday, the first day of kindergarten enrollment, Petrucci arrived at P.S. 234 at 9 a.m., only to find that she was too late and the school had already registered 30 children, which is P.S. 234’s daily maximum. She asked a security guard what time the first parent arrived on Monday and was told 5:45 a.m. So, early Tuesday morning, she donned layers upon layers of clothing and prepared to wait.
Like most of the 25 shivering parents in line Tuesday morning, Petrucci is zoned for P.S. 234. The District 2 Community Education Council just voted on the final zone lines last week, after a months-long battle that pitted neighbors against each other. The end result was that Tribeca west of Church St. was zoned for P.S. 234; eastern Tribeca, the Seaport and the northern Financial District were zoned for the Spruce Street School; the rest of the Financial District and Battery Park City south of Albany St. were zoned for P.S./I.S. 276; and Gateway Plaza and north B.P.C. were zoned for P.S. 89. P.S. 150 in Tribeca, Downtown’s fifth elementary school, chooses students by lottery.
Since the zone lines were only decided last week, some of the parents waiting outside of P.S. 234 were uncertain of their zoned school. Others knew they weren’t zoned for P.S. 234, but they still hoped their children could attend.
“I thought it was worth a shot,” said Sam Salman, who lives in Gateway Plaza in Battery Park City.
Salman is zoned for P.S. 89, and his two older children went there, but Salman said 89 got more and more overcrowded and he wants his 4-year-old daughter to have smaller classes. Although P.S. 234 has been crowded as well, Salman said he was impressed by the school’s reputation. He also plans to apply for P.S. 276 in southern B.P.C. and hasn’t ruled out the Spruce Street School either.
Lower Manhattan’s four zoned schools are allowing families outside of the zone to apply, though everyone should apply to their zoned schools as well. First priority will go to children with siblings in the school, then to in-zone children without siblings.
“It’s highly unlikely that any of these schools will be able to accept students from outside their zone,” said Danny Kanner, spokesperson for the Dept. of Education.
If a school does have a few extra seats, Lower Manhattan students will have an equal chance of getting in as students from the rest of District 2, which stretches through the Village, Midtown and the Upper East Side.
Many Downtown parents and some C.E.C. members had hoped that P.S. 234, P.S. 89, P.S. 276 and the Spruce Street School could swap zoned children who wanted to attend one of the other schools, but Kanner said that would go against the city’s policies.
“We are not creating a swap market,” Kanner said.
The city hopes that Downtown’s schools will be able to accommodate all siblings and zoned students, but if too many zoned kindergarteners apply to a given school, the city will hold a lottery for that school in the middle of March, Kanner said. In that case, any students who do not get into their zoned school will have priority to get into another Lower Manhattan school.
Each school has a slightly different kindergarten enrollment policy; the latest updates are available on the schools’ Web sites.
P.S. 234, which is taking up to 125 kindergarteners, has the shortest enrollment window and is accepting applications from the first 30 families who arrive at 9 a.m. each weekday morning until Feb. 12.
P.S. 89, which is taking up to 75 kindergarteners, is encouraging parents to come to the school and fill out an application as soon as possible, though the school will continue accepting applications from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. until March 12. Connie Shraft, the parent coordinator, said the process has run smoothly so far.
“To be honest, people are just relieved there’s no line,” she said.
P.S./I.S. 276, which is taking up to 75 kindergarteners, has held one enrollment session and is holding six more at its temporary location in Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St. The sessions will be between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Feb. 9, Feb. 24, Feb. 26, March 3 and March 10, and between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on March 12.
The Spruce Street School, which is taking 50 to 75 kindergarteners, is holding six enrollment sessions from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Feb. 4, Feb. 11, Feb. 22, March 4, March 8 and March 12, also at 52 Chambers St.
Parents can fill out an application for P.S. 150 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. any school day between now and March 12. The school admits 28 students each year via lottery and generally saves 80 percent of the slots for children in Lower Manhattan.
Parents who aren’t initially offered a seat at P.S. 150 near the end of March should not give up hope, said Laura Cohen, the school’s parent coordinator. About half of the children initially offered a seat at P.S. 150 attend a private school or another public school instead, so P.S. 150 usually gives seats to many children on its waiting list, Cohen said.
“Just relax,” Cohen said. “Nowhere else in New York City do parents have five extraordinary schools like this to pick from. Everyone is going to have their child going to a fabulous public school.”