Should the public school waitlists be a random lottery?

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April 11, 2013 By Steven E. Greer, MD

One of the most concerning issues to parents Downtown is the growing problem of classroom shortages that are blocking out new children from enrolling. At PS 276 of southern Battery Park, the upcoming new school year will enroll 100 kids in kindergarten, but 41 are on the wait list. At PS 89 in northern BPC, 75 kids will be enrolled in kindergarten, and 44 are on the waitlist. In all of Downtown Manhattan, approximately 400 new kindergarten seats were offered with 148 on waiting lists.

Students on the wait lists have had their positions in the queues determined randomly by a lottery. This has parents who have lived for many years in the zones of their preferred schools feeling cheated. In some cases, parents who have been residents of BPC for a decade or longer, even living in the same buildings where the schools are located, have been bumped to the wait list, while other parents, new to BPC, have gotten lucky. The unlucky parents believe that certain factors, such as seniority of residency, should be used to determine the order of the wait list.

In the River Terrace building of North BPC, young parents Jared and Catania Facher are on the wait list to enroll their four-year-old son into PS 89. They moved to BPC in 2008 and own their apartment. In South BPC, Bill Schror and his wife are also on the wait list for their four-year-old trying to get into PS 276. He moved to BPC in 2002 and is an owner. Ironically, Mr. Schror is a New York City school teacher.

Mr. Facher said, “All kids that live in this area deserve to go to a school within walking distance. That is one of the allures of living here. That being said, there should be some consideration for the length of time a family has lived here. It does not seem fair that the children of people who have lived here for ten years get no priority over children whose parents have only lived in and supported the community for a few months.”

Also upsetting parents on the wait list are examples of trickery and fraud used by parents who do not live in the zones of desirable schools. Some parents offer to pay the electric bills of residents in the desired zone to have proof of residency. Another case involved parents who ran a business in a desired school zone, but actually lived outside of the zone.

The Downtown population has grown more than the rest of the city for many reasons. Battery Park City is the baby carriage capitol of the city due to its well maintained parks and three public schools. The total population of BPC is approximately 13,000. Despite PS 276 having been opened just a few years ago, there are still classroom shortages and waitlists.

Many of the parents are also critical of the poor planning that caused the shortages Downtown. Mr. Facher said, “The entities involved (i.e., the NYC Department Education, the BPCA, Mayor Bloomberg) knew that overcrowding was going to be an issue, and as a consequence waiting lists. Last year, for PS 89 there was a waiting list of about 26 kids. That was even before Liberty Luxe and Liberty Green were fully occupied. It was readily apparent then, if not before, that overcrowding was reaching critical mass, and yet the City, State, and BPCA did absolutely nothing. The amount of children put on the waiting list will only grow with seemingly no solution in sight.”

Adding to the anxiety of the parent’s on the waitlists is that the NYC Department of Education, run by Chancellor Dennis Walcott, has not yet identified the “Plan B” overflow schools. Some kids in BPC could be forced to go as far as the Upper East Side for classes.

For the parents who pay the high cost of living to be in BPC, a source of angst comes from the expansion of the north and south school zones across the West Side Highway into the Financial District. That problem could be partially solved in 2015 when the Peck Slip school in the Seaport district opens. However, property values might be reduced if the zone of a well regarded school is taken away, which might create resistance from owners to reducing the footprint of the zones.

More immediate relief of the classroom shortages could come by expanding the number of classes. At PS 276, there have been up to five classes of 25 students at the kindergarten level. That was possible when the school was new. Now, those children are matriculating to the higher grades, which can no longer accommodate the numbers. As the reputation of PS 276 grows, more parents of older children are moving to BPC to allow the kids to join the schools at the fifth grade or older.

For parents and children on the wait list, a few spots will become available when the selection of students into special gifted program schools is announced. Also, parents who have applied to private schools have not yet been notified. Some of them might leave the public school system, freeing up spots. (Please post your comments)

(The controversial southern BPC school zone for PS 276 that includes residences in the Financial District, outside of Battery Park)

zone -02M276_Zone_Map 2012

Update April 18, 2013– Some parents have started an online petition to increase the number of classes. Click here

Update April 24, 2013– The joint session of the CB1 met in the far off location of the Murry Bergtraum High School, at 411 Pearl Street, north of the Brooklyn Bridge entrance, because the Verizon tower is adjacent to the school. Some wannabe elected officials were pandering to the Verizon unions who showed up for a large protest of plans to relocate their jobs to other boroughs.

Meanwhile, other matters were discussed, such as the proposed NID-tax and school overcrowding. More than a dozen parents spoke at the public session about the inability to enroll their 4-year-olds into the upcoming kindergarten classes in Battery Park City. However, the only person who benefited was Chairwoman Katherine McVay Hughes, who made the parents use a microphone next to her assuring that she would be in the photo-op. No elected officials were in attendance, nor was any member of the city school system. Therefore, the entire display fell on the ears of people with no authority to make a difference.

Why the elected officials and school chancellor did not find this meeting important enough to attend in unclear. Tonight, a meeting at PS 89 will also discuss this overcrowding issue.

Update May 17, 2013– By Steven E. Greer, MD

PS 89 opened another kindergarten class, and all of the parents on the waitlist seem to have been offered spots. The school wrote, “Hi everyone,  You will be happy to hear that PS 89 is opening a 4th kindergarten class for next year. We are able to offer all of your children seats at PS 89.  Please let me know if you are accepting this offer, and then we will make an appointment for you to bring your child to school and pre-register.  I hope we are able to register everyone by the end of next week. We do registration in the mornings between 9 and 11, so if you let me know what day is good, I will arrange it. Thank you for your patience throughout this process. I am very pleased that we are able to welcome you and your child to PS 89.”

The other school in Battery Park, PS 276, is still not planning on opening another kindergarten class. the waitlist there remains unresolved.

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3 Responses to Should the public school waitlists be a random lottery?

  1. BPCResident says:

    just a great article. Well done.

    Thanks for all you do with this site. I’ve been impressed in the past (some of the youtube videos are classics!) but you’ve outdone yourself with this piece.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Editor says:

    To BPCResident

    Glad you understand some of the humor in my videos that confront livery cabs, cursing men who run fruit shanty shacks, and more serious dog mafia confrontations

    I aim to entertain and inform

  3. Mother on waitlist says:

    Thank you Steven! The article reads very well. We will keep you posted. Have a nice weekend.

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