News & Culture in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Points Nearby
March 3, 2021
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PreK Unzoned Siblings

By Lisa M. Collins

What some parents have been hoping for, and others have feared, is now coming to fruition: The N.Y.C. Department of Education is proposing to end the sibling priority for rising preschoolers looking for seats in public, universal preschool programs at the city’s zoned elementary schools.

Up to now, 4-year-olds with older sisters and brothers at the school got top priority for preschool seats. The DOE is proposing to change that, giving top priority to 1) zoned siblings and then 2) all other zoned kids, before looking at siblings who do not live in the zone.

“We want our Pre-K and Kindergarten admissions regulations to be aligned,” Francis Thomas, spokesman for the Department of Education, told South Brooklyn Post.

The DOE’s proposal makes several wording changes in the city’s school acceptance policies, in each case making it blatantly clear that zoned kids get preference for seats, from preschool and kindergarten on up, over siblings and others who live outside the zone.

This will, undoubtedly, leave some families in a precarious position if they have moved outside the zone but have rising preschoolers or kindergartners.

“How will parents take kids to two different schools?” said one worried parent on Tuesday.

Yet once a child starts kindergarten, they are “in” the school, regardless of whether the family moves outside the zone, “or the zone lines change,” Thomas told the South Brooklyn Post.

The city’s 13 member Panel for Educational Policy, appointed by the mayor and borough presidents, will vote on the matter on March 1, at their meeting at Brooklyn Technical High School. The city sent a copy of the proposal to South Brooklyn Post on Tuesday.

For years, parents of kids at brownstone Brooklyn schools have moved around once their kids start school, and rely on the sibling priority to get younger kids accepted into preschool.

Siblings will get preference for seats only after all zoned kids get seats, for pre-K as well as for kindergarten.

The highest priority, under the new regulations, goes to in-zone preschoolers with an older sibling at the school. Such has been the case in kindergarten for years.

Once all zoned kids are offered seats, siblings who live in the district will get the next priority.

For the last few years, siblings have taken nearly all the seats at PS 29 and PS 58 in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, due to high demand for those schools and a ballooning child population.

Yet when kindergarten rolls around, the rules state that parents must prove residency, regardless of whether their child attended preschool at the school

And despite widespread rumors, officials at PS 29 in Cobble Hill say that the school has never had to turn away a zoned kindergarten child. As of this past fall, officials at P.S. 58 in Carroll Gardens said the same. Waiting lists at the two schools were started this year for the first time due to record numbers of applicants, but the schools were able to find seats for zoned kids who wanted them.

Other popular local schools have not reached that point of capacity as of yet.

Here some other facts and figures for you:

_Kindergarten registration ends March 2.

_Preschool registration begins March 5.

_If approved, the new rules will give first priority in pre-K and kindergarten 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.

_PS 29 had six kindergarten classes this year, and PS 58 had a record seven. PS 58 had to eliminate a pre-K class to make room for bulging kindergarten numbers, and parents worry that pre-K in this area will get phased out if the number of kindergartners continues to increase.


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