PS 58 has doubled its student population in 5 years. This year, it has one less pre-K to make room for K.
Photo by Joshua Kristal
OK—You didn’t get into any public preschools the first round. Not to worry. Here’s a pre-K guide for the second round.
No. 1: Stay calm, fear not, and have faith. Most people get a good public preschool seat when it’s all said and done, when their mind is set on it, even if the school isn’t particularly close to your apartment, or your top choice. When it comes to preschools, we have an embarrassment of riches. Do your research, call around, talk to administrators, put your name on waiting lists.
The bad news, of course, is that our area – Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and surrounds — is over-run with families, and there’s three or so zoned 4-year-olds for each pre-K seat.
Here’s what happened to me last year: I live in PS 29, and did not get offered a seat anywhere for Round 1, after listing PS 29 1st, PS 58 2nd and PS 261 3rd in the 1st Round application. As my child is the eldest, this was not a smart move on my part—I had zero chance of getting in to 58 or 261, as I was out of zone, and siblings took all the seats at PS 29.
So, for the second round, I put PS 32 as my first choice, knowing that there were many seats open there. I found out the week before school started that we were offered a seat at PS 32.
Very annoying is that the DOE makes you wait all summer to find out if and where you get a seat in second round. Depending on your situation, you may get stuck putting a deposit down at a private school, to hold the seat, as we did.
Schools you are lucky to get into:
PS 29 (Cobble Hill), PS 58 (Carroll Gardens) and PS 261 (Boerum Hill): These are excellent public pre-K programs. Your only chance of getting in is if you live in the zone, and even then, if your child is your eldest, your chances are slim. Younger siblings of kids at the school get top priority (city policy), and often take 17 or more seats, according to administrators at the schools. Last year, younger siblings took all 54 pre-K seats at PS 29, though one seat opened up the night before school started, and a zoned, eldest child whose parent got on the waiting list early in the game was offered the seat.
If you live in these zones and didn’t get in first round, might be a good idea to choose a school with more seats open in the second round, and put that school as your first choice. Call the parent coordinator and find out how many seats are available at schools you like, and use your first choice carefully.
2. PS 32 (Carroll Gardens) and PS 38 (Boerum Hill): These are excellent pre-K programs, and they had many seats open in second round last year. Put them as your first choice. My child attended pre-K at PS 32 and we were thrilled with it. At 32, the preschoolers are housed in little red trailers behind the school, along with kindergartners and first graders. There are two pre-K classes. One has a number of seats reserved for kids with special needs, and due to that, there are three to four teachers. Last year, this class had three teachers for 12 students.
If your child has special needs, PS 32 is a wonderful place. About a third of the school is reserved for kids with special needs, and the curriculum and layout caters to fostering a nurturing environment for these kids. The school is also the pioneering location for the NEST program for highly-functioning autistic kids. The school has a physical therapy room for kids with special needs and specially-trained teachers. It also has an impressive music, art and science program, and an amazingly sweet little library.
Parents of kids at PS 38 are equally enthusiastic about the program there.
3. PS 8—Brooklyn Heights/Dumbo. This is an excellent public pre-K. It has gotten so popular that not all zoned preschoolers get in. Call the parent coordinator to find out how many seats are left open.
4. Children’s School and Brooklyn New School (PS146). These schools are very popular and not easy to get into. Tour, apply, talk to the administrators. Children’s School is groundbreaking in that it mixes kids with special needs and general population kids. Each group helps the other. Brooklyn New School is dedicated to a diverse school population.
5. PS 15 in Red Hook. I have heard very good things about this pre-K, but I have not talked to parents with kids at this school. Best to visit and see for yourself.
Once the DOE hands out seats in Round 1 and Round 2, it’s up to the schools to dole out the remaining seats as they see fit. Certainly, they should hand out remaining seats to people in the zone, and to people on the waiting list. But, this is their discretion. Can’t hurt to go in and get on that list.
Even if you don’t get a seat in the second round, you should continue to talk to the administrators at the schools of your choice. There are always kids who don’t show up at the beginning of school, and seats that open up even after school begins. Be polite and persistent.
Parents went haywire last year because so many didn’t get their preferred pre-K seats. But of all the parents I talked to, heard of and read about, only one in South Brooklyn didn’t get a seat anywhere, that I know of.
Remember that we are lucky to have free, all day public pre-K, and so many around here. Many schools in Manhattan don’t offer public pre-K, as they need the space for older kids. PS 58 this year is reducing the number of pre-K classes it’s offering by one to make room for a record 7 kindergarten classes. And many cities, such as Toronto, offer half-day preschools a few days a week.
As for private schools for 4-year-olds, your options range from traditional daycare to more formal programs. I’m listing below the places I have personal knowledge of. Either my child went there or I’ve talked to parents who enthusiastically endorse the place. If you have places you’d like to add to the list, please email me.
*Open House Nursery School on Warren, near Smith, is one of the only private Universal Pre-Ks in the area. The program runs five days a week, from 8 to 6, if you need it. It’s the perfect option for working parents, and it’s a great little nursery school, which might be why it’s in such great demand. You’ll have to be on your toes—to get in, you’ll have to call on a certain day in October at a certain time, and the school weeds through applicants. Many get on a waiting list when children are babies. It’s clean and well-run, and offers all kinds of stimulating activities for kids, from yoga to cooking to field trips and story time with songs.
*Language and Laughter Studio—This little language school in Boerum Hill is fantastic. It offers a French immersion preschool on short days. Classes are taught by native French speakers who are certified teachers. The school is clean and well-run. The emphasis is music, art and drama.
*Cobble Hill Playgroup: Parents are absolutely in love with this little nursery school. It’s darling, clean, lots of music and art, well-organized, and parents help run the school. Lots of writers, journalists and authors have had kids here. Tour early and put down a deposit. You will get it back unless they offer you a seat and you accept it, and then pull out.
*Linden Tree in Cobble Hill is popular with many parents. It has space available for September: http://www.lindentreepreschool.org/. If you have an interest, please contact Anne Granville at 718-624-0083.
Some cold hard facts
There’s lots of confusion about who gets priority and who is guaranteed seats when it comes to preschool and kindergarten. Here’s how it breaks down at all the NYC public elementary schools (according to school officials, and the NYC Department of Education):
In preschool, siblings get top priority, no matter where they live. If a 3-year-old from Bay Ridge has an older sibling at PS 58 The Carroll School, that 3-year-old gets priority over a child living in the zone.
When it comes to kindergarten, the opposite is true.
First priority in kindergarten goes to zoned kids with an older sibling at the school.
Second priority goes to zoned kids.
Third priority goes to younger siblings of kids at the school, who live out of the zone.
Once all zoned kids are placed, remaining kindergarten seats go to siblings (whether they live in or out of the zone). At PS 29 this past year, after all zoned kids were placed, and all siblings (whether residing in or out of zone), four kindergarten seats remained for un-zoned kids, said the school principal, Melanie Raneri Woods.
At 58, once zoned kids and siblings were placed, there was a little “wiggle” room left over, in case kids moved into the zone, but there were not any non-zone, non-siblings placed at the school last year, said parent coordinator Joan Bredthauer.
PS 29 has six kindergarten classes for the upcoming year. PS 58 has a record seven (58’s population has doubled from 400 to 800 kids in five years).
Neither PS 58 nor PS 29 has ever turned away a zoned child or a sibling for kindergarten, though there are wait -isted kindergartners at both schools, whose families moved into the zone after registration was closed, according to the schools.
If you have more questions, let me know. I’ll try to find answers.