Bklyn Heights’ PS 8 will not add class for 24 wait-listed tykes

Wait-list is back at PS 8 — just a year after controversial rezoning
File photo by Jason Speakman

It’s a kindergarten cap!

The city will not add an extra class for kindergarteners at Brooklyn Heights’ PS 8 this year, despite a wait list of 24 students just one school-year after a controversial rezoning designed to reduce overcrowding in its classrooms. And the decision is frustrating parents who hoped to get their youngsters enrolled there before the first bell on Sept. 7.

“We really wanted our daughter to be in her local public school with her friends. We’re pretty upset about it,” said one dad, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

There will be five kindergarten classes this year, but parents crossed their fingers the city would add a sixth to accommodate youngsters hoping to matriculate at the Hicks Street school. But it will not, according to an education department spokesperson, who said wait-listed kids either have to enroll elsewhere or be lucky enough to snag a spot with less than two weeks left until the first day.

The agency hoped to avoid this problem when it redrew zoning lines to cut the area PS 8 serves by about 50 percent in 2016, adding the other half of its former district, which includes Dumbo and Vinegar Hill, to the zone served by nearby PS 307. The move angered parents who hoped to send their tykes to PS 8 as well as those of kids at PS 307, who worried an influx of rich families would alter the fabric of the largely minority facility.

The rezoning seemed to work at first — there was no kindergarten wait list in 2016 after 50 tots could not get in the year before.

Its return has little to do with the glut of new residents moving to the booming nabes served by the school, according to the education department rep, who blamed it on incoming siblings of already-enrolled students who receive priority admission even though they now live outside the district.

Eighteen of those pint-sized pupils will be attending PS 8 this year, according to spokesman Will Mantell, who said the education department expects overcrowding to subside as squirts with siblings get older. He did not say, however, how that theory applied to the lack of a wait list last year — when already-enrolled students also had incoming siblings — or how it explains this year’s six wait-listed kids who don’t have kin at PS 8.

The city is refusing to add another kindergarten class because the school is already overcapacity for the 2017–18 school year, Mantell claimed, although he refused to give enrollment figures, saying he doesn’t have final numbers yet.

He did say that 165 kindergarten students received offers, up from 148 last year. One hundred forty were enrolled in 2014–15, 120 in 2015–16, and 116 in 2016–17. There were five classes the past two years, and six in 2014–15.

Meanwhile, the number of students applying for kindergarten at PS 307 this year increased after PS 8 families learned they were wait listed in March, according to Mantell. The city sent out 88 offers for the Vinegar Hill school, up from 66 last year, a boost it credits to the wait list at the Brooklyn Heights facility.

The PS 8 dad said several parents have told him there are only four second-grade classes at the school this year, leaving space open for more kindergartners, but the education department refused to verify this, ignoring repeated questions on the number of second-grade classrooms.

The frustrated father attributed the agency’s silence to his theory that the city wants to push more kids into PS 307, which will again operate under capacity this year.

“My understanding is they actually have space to accommodate another class and it was a decision by enrollment somehow not to do it because there was space at 307,” he said. “They’re basically denying people the right to go to their own school because they happen to have capacity open a mile away.”

The education department rep refused to say whether it was attempting this tactic, offering only a few words of encouragement for those still stuck on the wait list.

“We’ll continue to work with families to ensure they find kindergarten seats that meet their needs,” he said.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill