News & Culture in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Points Nearby
January 24, 2021
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News + Views

Preschool Crowding Peaks

By Lisa M. Collins
Waiting for school to get out at P.S. 58 on Carroll Street.
Photo by Joshua Kristal

More than 20 Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill families received bad news this week – the public elementary schools had to confirm to current parents that their rising preschool-aged children didn’t get into the preschool programs at P.S. 58 The Carroll School, and P.S. 29 John Harrigan; even though the families live in the school zones and have other, older children attending the school.

It’s the first year for both schools to have to turn down “zoned siblings” for the preschool program. At The Carroll School, some 22 families are on the preschool wait list, owing to a steroidal increase in the number of small children living in Carroll Gardens, this year over last year. The Carroll School is located between Carroll Street and 1st Place along Smith Street.

“It felt like we were in a bubble that kept blowing up. This year, it burst,” said the P.S. 58 official, who wanted to remain unnamed.

It’s the first time that P.S. 58 has had a preschool waiting list for children who are zoned for the school and who are younger siblings of current students at the school.

The same has occurred in Cobble Hill, which also has a zoned sibling preschool waiting list for the first time, according to a school official there.

In the past, the preschool programs at both schools – each with three classrooms, for a total of 54 seats – have filled up almost entirely with zoned siblings, often with a few seats left over for kids who live in the zone but are not siblings.

Last year at The Carroll School, 55 zoned siblings applied for the 54 seats, and one family took a private school seat, according to an official at the school. This year, some 76 zoned siblings, who turn 4 years old in 2016, applied. That’s a 38 percent increase this year over last.

The issue raises questions for the kindergarten programs at both schools. At P.S. 58 and at P.S. 29, there are seven kindergarten classrooms, for a total of 175 seats at each school. So far, according to school officials, they’ve never had to turn away a zoned child who was applying to attend the kindergarten program. For the last two years, there has been a waiting list for rising kindergartners who live in the zone. But because some families move, or choose private schools, charter schools, or gifted and talented programs, all of the zoned kids who want a seat come September have been able to get one, according to officials at the schools.

Last year, the Carroll School had a wait list of seven kindergartners who live in the zone. If that number increases 38 percent this year, it’ll be 9 or 10 kids on the kindergarten waiting list. It’s nervous math for parents who are relying on a free elementary school education for the kids, at least from age 5 to age 11 or so, in order to afford their rent.

In Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill, the schools have at least been able to keep their preschool programs, though the Carroll School moved two of its preschool classrooms to a standalone building at 131 Union Street in the Columbia Street waterfront district. The principal had said she would have to close the pre-K program if an offsite location could not be found, due to crowding in the upper grades. Some 4th Grade classrooms at P.S. 58 have 34 kids – while the teacher’s union contract caps the class size at 32.

Maria Monforte, payroll secretary at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, said her grandson didn’t get into the preschool program at P.S. 58, even though his older brother is a 2nd grader at the Carroll School.

“It’s a big mess,” Monforte said. “Every year the numbers get bigger. They keep building buildings, but they aren’t building more schools, or more parking.”

At 29, “we have a very long waitlist,” she said, of zoned kids. And P.S. 32, the Gowanus area elementary school on Hoyt and Union streets is “over the top” as well, she said.

“So far, we’ve been able to take all our zoned kindergartners,” at 29, she said. “But nobody knows right now. This might be the first year we have a problem.”

Carroll School moves creates a preschool annex:

P.S. 58 Pulls Rabbit Out of Hat

More local school stories:

Cobble Hill PS29 Wait List



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