Kinder crisis! No room for new kids at Slope schools

Kinder crisis! No room for new kids at Slope schools
Photo by Kate Briquelet

It’s an all-out war for the most sought-after commodity in baby-filled Park Slope — a kindergarten seat.

Park Slope parents panicked last week when the city put 47 kindergarten-aged kids on the waiting list at PS 107 — and gave no information about where the rejected students would be enrolled in September.

Meanwhile, the staff of the Eighth Avenue school is making unannounced house visits to weed out kids whose parents lied about their address.

“I know it’s terrible, but what are you going to do?” said Pat Mannino, a school administrator who has visited 35 homes on a list of 142 — yet only caught two out-of-district kids. “When there’s so many kids on a wait list, it’s not fair to those who are legit.”

Several wait-listed families have rushed to other area schools, including PS 10 at Prospect and Seventh avenues, begging to apply, but principals have close their doors, saying that they may not have space for all their in-zone students.

Parents are demanding city action, even calling for PS 107’s lone, 18-seat pre-K class to be canceled to open up more kindergarten seats.

“Unless they convert that pre-K, I don’t have any hope at all,” said Steven Kreps, whose son, Reuben, is 41st on the wait list.

PS 107 isn’t the only battleground in the war to make room in Park Slope’s overburdened schools. Other area schools, including PS 39 on Sixth Avenue, turned away in-zone kindergartners for the first time, leaving parents to scramble for seats and worry about competing for spots in the years to come.

Laura Scott, principal of PS 10 on nearby Seventh Avenue, said she was able to accommodate all her in-zone applicants, but making room has become more difficult.

“I don’t know if there was a baby boom we were unaware of or parents are now thinking about zoned schools instead of private schools because of the economy, but we have more students than usual,” she said.

The city is mandated to provide seats for kindergartners, but not necessarily in the child’s home district or zones. Education Department spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld said that when a school has more students than seats, the city offers a slot at a nearby alternate schools.

“Mostly every single time, it’s in their district,” he said.

Some spaces open up as some accepted parents opt for private schools or make it in to the city’s gifted and talented schools, so some wait-listed kids will get some good news at the end of May, he added.

But even those who work for the city aren’t immune to the wait-list limbo. Marc Sternberg, the school system’s deputy chancellor for portfolio planning, also has a would-be kindergartner on PS 107’s wait list.

Getting into kindergarten in Park Slope is becoming almost as difficult as getting into Harvard. First preference goes to siblings of students already enrolled in the school zone, then to children who live in the zone, but don’t have siblings at PS 107. Siblings of PS 107 students who now live outside the zone are next, ahead of out-of-zone applicants, who are considered last.

Kreps said that when he applied at PS 107, school officials told him they would have no problem admitting Reuben, so he did not apply at other nearby schools as backup. The wait-list letter arrived like a bombshell, threatening to shatter his family’s work schedules, finances and child care.

As a result, Krebs and his wife, Harlene, are discussing home-schooling Reuben or forming a home-schooled group with other wait-listed parents, as many are worried that the Department of Education does not have a long-term plan.

“What’s going to happen when there’s 147 more kids behind the kindergartners, in third grade, second grade and first grade?” Krebs asked. “It doesn’t feel like the city has a comprehensive plan for that.”

PS 107 is so overcrowded that school administrator Pat Mannino (foreground with legitimate students) has been making house-to-house searches to weed out ineligible kids.
Photo by Bess Adler