The DOE delivered on their promise made at the November overcrowding meeting and held a special Kindergarten Admissions information session at PS8 on Tuesday night. In attendance were of course concerned parents, City Councilman Steve Levin, NYS Senator Daniel Squadron, PS8 Principal Seth Phillips, PS8 Co-Presient Kim Glickman and key Department of Education representatives including Senior Director of Kindergarten Admissions, Gentian Falstrom and Estelle Acquah who is now Director of Strategy for Brooklyn along with two of Ms. Acquah’s colleagues.
After brief introductions by Principal Phillips and cordial comments from Councilman Levin, Ms. Falstrom got down to business and delivered a succinct step-by-step navigation of the Kindergarten admissions process. See below or click HERE to download the complete PowerPoint presentation.
The important take-aways are:
A) Applications are open through February 13th. You may apply online, by phone or via email. Visit www.nyc.gov/schools/kindergarten to download the Kindergarten Directory and link to the enrollment portal.
B) Each type of school (Zoned Schools, Non-Zoned Schools & Choice Districts) has their own admission priorities. Reference the Kindergarten Directory for info about specific schools and their admissions priorities.
C) Standard Zoned School priorities are: 1) zoned students with siblings who will be enrolled in grades K-5 in Sept 2015, 2) zoned students without siblings, 3) in-district students with siblings, 4) out-of-district students with siblings, 5) in-district currently enrolled at school’s pre-k, 6) out-of-district pre-k students, 7) other in-district students and 8) other out-of-district students.
D) Parents are encouraged to select at least one alternate school. Ms. Falstrom explains, “If your zoned school is over-crowded and your child is not given an offer for the school and you have not put a back up choice, the DOE will look at the closest school for you.” Parents may choose up to twelve schools and are asked to rank them but they should only select schools they would consider having their child actually attend.
E) Should a wait-list occur and the list is not exhausted for Kindergarten (meaning, they cannot be offered a seat), children on the wait-list are given priority for first grade. As an aside, the DOE generates the waitlist and schools must follow the order on that list.
The presentation was punctuated with questions from parents. But, the mood in the room became decidedly more urgent at its conclusion. Parents were seeking more information from the DOE about what short-, medium- and long-term solutions are devised since November. Ms. Acquah replied, “We are working on solutions. Nothing is off the table. We are working in earnest.” And unlike her response at the meeting in November, she was able to say some of those potential solutions could include re-zoning, utilizing existing buildings and exploring capacity at neighboring schools. Though she admitted, “none of these solutions are perfect.”
This did little to quell parents’ fears that their child would be wait-listed come September 2015. One exasperated Mom directed her frustration at Daniel Squadron saying, “The neighborhood is on fire. I represent 20 other parents who can’t be here tonight. We’re looking to YOU.” Another pressed for a follow up meeting with the DOE to hear their proposed solutions. Seth Phillips tried to assure parents that all parties are working on the problem, “you don’t put [Daniel and I] in a room and NOT have us talk about a solution.” Mr. Squadron added, “The goal is to NOT have a waitlist.”
Kindergarten placement offers are sent in early April. However parents are not content with a “wait and see” approach to the problem. They pressed the representatives for concrete tangible options they can utilize right now. Ultimately it is rampant over-development that is the cause of our over-crowding woes. Estelle Acquah encouraged everyone to not only stay in contact with her office but also the School Construction Authority (SCA), the department that oversees new school construction, modernization and space acquisition for NYC public schools. Daniel Squadron explained legislation he introduced that requires the SCA to gather census and construction permit data was passed last year. Kim Glickman, PS8 PTA Co-President invited all present to sign their petitions and attend community-based meetings focusing on over development. The PS8 PTA has pledged to keep parents informed of relevant upcoming meetings.