The Department of Education may be opening a new primary school to alleviate District 3 crowding, but Borough President Scott Stringer is not happy with the enrollment timeline.
Families who have been waitlisted at their zoned schools will receive offers for alternative schools if they cannot be moved off of the waitlist. But the second-round offers, planned for the week of May 17, will come before most families finalize plans for private schools or gifted programs, which in turn frees up space at zoned schools.
“The DOE does not explain the reasoning behind choosing this week for distribution,” Stringer said. “It is well before the gifted and talented and other specialized program registration is finalized.”
The rationale behind the May 17 timeline, a department official explained, is to give families more options for their children as early as possible.
According to the enrollment plan for P.S. 452’s kindergarten class of 75 students, 55 seats will be dedicated to the P.S. 87 waitlist, and 10 to the P.S. 199 waitlist. The department also reserved 10 seats for special needs students, but did not specify what catchment zones those students would come from.
However, P.S. 87’s waitlist includes more than 110 students, and the waitlist for P.S. 199 has more than 50 students, so it is unlikely that all those students will be placed at a zoned school.
The department said it is working with the community to reduce waitlists and provide alternatives for parents.
“We understand that this is a time of real anxiety for parents,” said department spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld. “We are closely monitoring enrollment and demographic trends for our planning and will continue to work with parents, elected officials, CEC members and other community leaders to make sure there is enough capacity to meet demand in these neighborhoods.”
But critics say this is not enough to address the crowding issue, especially when the M.S. 44 building, where P.S. 452 will be located, already houses the Anderson School, West Prep Academy, The Computer School and J.H.S. 44, which will eventually be phased out.
Mark Diller, chairman of Community Board 7’s youth and education committee, said that P.S. 452 was a good first step, but that this problem is only going to continue.
“Building P.S. 452 in an existing space doesn’t make up for the failure to plan for overcrowding,” he said. “There are more residential developments opening in our district all of the time. While this is only a problem at P.S. 87 and P.S. 199 right now, pretty soon we are going to see crowding at P.S. 163 and P.S. 191, too.”
Helen Rosenthal, a committee member, agreed.
“I don’t think they [the department] are doing enough,” Rosenthal said. “The real solution to the problem is opening a new five-section elementary school in a new building.”
The department said it is considering the need for more middle school seats in the neighborhood, too.
“We certainly take projections into account and our capital plan will reflect that,” Zarin-Rosenfeld said.
Stringer said he will convene his “war room” soon to address a number of education issues.
“We need to figure out these problems for the long run,” he said. “We don’t want to see parents leave New York because our schools are overcrowded.”
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