Volume 22, Number 38 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | February 12, 2010
Lottery at P.S. 234 as new zone comes up short
By Julie Shapiro
P.S. 234 has received 186 applications for 125 kindergarten seats and will hold a lottery next month to decide who can attend school there in the fall.
A lottery at 234 is precisely the situation the city Dept. of Education was hoping to avoid when they rezoned Lower Manhattan’s schools last month and shrunk the zone for P.S. 234. But far more students wound up zoned for P.S. 234 than the city expected.
“I don’t think anybody could have predicted it,” said Elizabeth Rose, director of portfolio planning at the D.O.E.
The city used current kindergarten and first-grade student enrollment to predict the size of next year’s kindergarten class, but that method did not work: P.S. 234 has received 60 percent more applications than the D.O.E. was expecting, Rose said Thursday after a meeting of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s school overcrowding taskforce.
Of the 186 applications P.S. 234 has received from zoned students, 60 came from children who already have a sibling in the school. Those students are guaranteed a seat in P.S. 234, which means that about half of 234’s kindergarten spots will be taken up by siblings.
The remaining 126 zoned students who have applied to the school so far will go into a lottery for the remaining 65 spots, giving families roughly a 50-50 chance of being accepted, assuming no more students apply.
The school will hold the lottery after kindergarten registration ends on March 12 and will notify parents on March 22. The lottery will be random, without regard for geography, so those who live closest to the school will not have an advantage.
Zoned children who don’t get into P.S. 234 will receive priority at Downtown’s other schools: P.S. 89 and P.S. 276 in Battery Park City and the Spruce Street School near City Hall. Rose also encouraged parents concerned about not getting into 234 to apply to P.S. 150, a Tribeca lottery school where Lower Manhattan has priority admission, and gifted and talented programs in District 2. Parents who end up on 234’s waitlist may not find out whether they are accepted into an alternative school until May or June.
It’s also unclear whether Downtown’s other elementary schools will have room to handle the overflow from P.S. 234. P.S. 89, P.S. 276 and the Spruce Street School will each accept about 75 students. So far, Spruce and 276 have each received about 30 applications, but Spruce Principal Nancy Harris said she knows of at least 40 other families who are zoned for her school and have expressed interest. P.S. 89 has received 35 applications, but once current pre-K students planning to apply are added in, Principal Ronnie Najjar expects to be nearly full by the end of the registration period.
“These numbers are a little scary,” Najjar said at Silver’s meeting.
All of Downtown’s principals urged any parents who have not registered their children to do so as soon as possible.
During the intense debate over school zoning options over the past several months, advocates for both Option 2 and Option 3R argued that their preferred choice would reduce overcrowding at P.S. 234. The District 2 Community Education Council ultimately settled on Option 2, which zones all of Tribeca west of Church St. for P.S. 234. Option 3R would have zoned Tribeca roughly north of Murray St. for P.S. 234, cutting out a piece of south Tribeca but adding in all of east Tribeca.
Rose said Thursday that picking Option 3R instead of Option 2 likely would not have prevented a lottery at P.S. 234.
“The two options were incredibly similar,” she said.
Some parents at Silver’s meeting agreed, including Liat Silberman, former president of P.S. 234’s P.T.A. and a member of Community Board 1.
“It’s not a zoning problem,” Silberman said. “It’s a capacity problem.”
She and others pointed to the spike in kindergarten applications as evidence that Downtown needs more elementary seats — and soon.
Look for more details and reactions in the hard copy of Downtown Express and online next week. Downtown Express first broke news of the lottery soon after the Thursday afternoon meeting via Twitter and Facebook, so check those sites as well for the most up-to-date information.