Free seats at popular local elementary schools in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens are getting harder and harder to get for parents of preschoolers and kindergartners.
Cobble Hill’s sought-after PS 29 elementary school on Henry Street is the second area elementary school, after PS 58 in Carroll Gardens, to run a wait list for in-zone kindergartners this year. All kindergarten seats in six classrooms for the upcoming 2011/2012 schoolyear at PS 29 are filled by in-zone children who’s parents have accepted the seats, said Principal Melanie Woods. New families to the zone will get added to the wait list.
The state does not require elementary schools to provide kindergarten seats. But the city’s policy has been to find seats for all kindergartners if there is not space in their zoned school. The DOE looks for other kindergarten programs with space.
Kindergartners whose families move to PS 29’s zone, or who live there and have not registered, will get added to the wait list.
“All zoned applicants who applied on time got a seat,” said Emily Freund, parent coordinator at PS 29.
The school will make home visits in coming weeks if parents did not use utility bills when they registered their child, Woods said, to ensure the child lives in the school zone.
The home inspections are awkward, Freund and others say. The school is looking for toys and other evidence that the child lives in the home.
“The Department of Education leaves it up to us to be detectives, and we’re not,” Freund said.
Freund said about a dozen seats a year open up in summer and the early days of school, as parents move, take seats in gifted and talented programs or in private schools. Gifted and Talented seat placements aren’t offered until June.
“Some kids who registered don’t show up,” Freund said.
South Brooklyn Post reported a month ago that The Carroll School, PS 58, in Carroll Gardens, had filled all of its kindergarten seats with parents in the zone, and was also running a wait list for new parents moving to the neighborhood.
Neither school has run a wait list for kindergartners in the past, administrators say.
In prior years, seats were available for non-zoned kids.
So far, the problem of space does not exist for upper grades. Schools are required to provide seats for kids in grades 1 and up, Freund says.
Some parents are concerned that preschool will get phased out in coming years, due to the growing student population. Many public schools in Manhattan have stopped providing preschool, to make room for older kids. Neither the state nor the city require schools to provide preschool programs.
South Brooklyn has several popular public preschools—at public schools 29, 58, 32, 38 and 261. But many in-zone parents in 29, 58 and 261 do not get a seat in their zoned school, because there are too many applicants.
A friend of mine joked to me that “it’s a favorite pastime in Brooklyn” for parents to fret about the school space crunch. That’s true. But it’s also true that space is getting tighter and tighter.
“There’s lots of families moving in. They move here partially because the school has a good reputation. It’s good that we have a good reputation, but it attracts people…” Freund said.
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