Waitlist Update: Extra P.S. 290 Class A ‘Band-Aid Solution’

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Upper East Sider Lucy Appert signed up her 5-year-old son, Henry, for P. S. 290 the day after registration opened in February. But Henry is 85 on the East 82nd Street primary school"s waitlist.

“I can see the school from our apartment, Appert said. “We were told that it"s going to be fine's that there would be no zoning plan under which I would not be in the 290 district.

Appert and many other frustrated parents of waitlisted children recently submitted a petition to the Department of Education protesting the elimination of one of P.S. 290"s five kindergarten classes for the 2010-2011 academic year. The school will be shrinking its kindergarten from five classes to four to free up space for

P.S. 158, on York Avenue, will house the new primary school opening this fall. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

next year"s second grade. Education officials have said that keeping the kindergarten"s fifth class is not an option because the school is at capacity, and the small number of cluster rooms's spaces for science labs, arts and the like's cannot be turned into homerooms.

Parents have also requested that an annex be built, but the department said that such tacked-on spaces are not available or suitable, and that all waitlisted students will be accommodated in the Upper East Side neighborhood without any annexes.

“That response is ignoring the entire reason for the petition to begin with, said Michelle Hankin, a parent who lives in the P.S. 290 zone. “Parents don"t just want a seat [anywhere], they want a seat in the school zone they chose to live in.

Council Member Dan Garodnick called the idea of additional kindergarten sections at schools such as P.S. 290, “a Band-Aid solution for last year and this year, after an April 21 meeting about the waitlist situation, held at Wagner Middle School on East 76th Street.

“We need to make sure we can accommodate students who are going through the pipeline, all the way through middle school, Garodnick said.

According to Elizabeth Rose, director of portfolio planning at the department, there are currently 99 students on the wait list at P.S. 290; 53 at P.S. 183; 42 at P.S. 59; and 4 at P.S. 6.

At the meeting, parents expressed frustration that the department did not implement a temporary rezoning plan in time for the 2010-2011 school year. Members of the District 2 Community Education Council, however, said they were not satisfied with projected data on population growth and enrollment patterns, and decided to hold off on redrawing catchment boundaries.

“We didn"t want to use a shoddy set of numbers to draw the maps and create unnecessary anxiety for parents, said Shino Tanikawa, co-chair of the parent council"s zoning committee.

Rezoning, she added, does not automatically create new capacity in schools; crowding can be resolved only if rezoning is combined with more seats.

“Rezoning is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic's it alone does not create new space, said John Moore, press secretary for Council Member Jessica Lappin. “Nothing is actually changing when you"re just reshuffling kids from one overcrowded school to another.

To add to parents" confusion, P.S. 267, a new elementary school that will open in the P.S. 158 building, on York Avenue between East 77th and 78th streets, was not assigned a zone for the 2010-2011 school year. The new school is expected to get a permanent home at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital Building, at 213 E. 63rd St., in 2012.

If P.S. 267 does not receive enough applicants to fill its 100 slots by the April 30 deadline, remaining seats will be filled by students waitlisted at P.S. 290, P.S. 59 and P.S. 183. A lottery system will distribute seats if more than 100 applicants are received.

One school that is filling seats a bit differently this year is P.S. 6, which offered placements to more students (170) than it can accommodate (125). Administrators are banking that number getting whittled down by students who opt for private school or gifted programs, or whose families move. That situation could backfire, though, if not enough students pursue other options.

Rose assured apprehensive parents at the meeting that waitlists will dwindle once the gifted students find out their placements in June and other students register last-minute for private schools or move out of the district. Placement offers for waitlisted students will be made no later than the week of May 17.

“Every child will have an excellent public school option on the Upper East Side, Rose said.