The pre-Kindergarten admission process in New York City for the 2008-2009 school year has been a source of great frustration for parents within the Columbia Street District and neighboring areas. Being well aware of the fact that there that there is no guarantee for a slot in a public pre-K program and that siblings are prioritized in the admission process, the pre-K programs of P.S. 29, 58 and 261 offer approximately 165 slots, which should cover the needs of the neighborhood. The admissions process has previously been an application followed by a lottery for those who do not have siblings in the school, but for the 2008-2009 school year, the Department of Education decided to centralize the admissions process and outsource the entire process to a private company in Pennsylvania together with the admissions for the Gifted and Talented Kindergarten programs.
Having applied to pre-K programs on behalf of my son, I found a remarkable lack of transparency in the application process, and a true dearth of useful information. I received a rejection letter from the NYC Board of Education Office of Student Enrollment claiming that there will be another opportunity for pre-Kindergarten placement starting June 23, although no further details were provided. Telephone conversations with the helpful staff of School District 15 and P.S. 29 revealed additional amounts of frustration and confusion due to the lack of information from the Board of Education, and they claimed that this would lead to planning difficulties for the coming school year.
According to the DoE, 20,000 pre-K applications submitted, and 17,000 children were offered seats, though not all to their first-choice schools. Three thousand families received no placement at all. In many cases, sibling preference was ignored. The DoE claimed that these issues were subsequently addressed after a reapplication process that ended on July 18, although there are apparently still 120 unresolved cases within New York City. As for P.S. 29, this particular school was not included on the list of schools that were applicable for pre-K reapplication, since P.S. 29 pre-K classes were supposedly already filled up. However, the P.S. 29 PTA and pre-K coordinator claim that eight to ten pre-K students register without enrolling every year, and since the DoE is not providing a wait list, P.S. 29 may very well have to provide their own local wait list, thus having to do the job that the centralization was supposed to eliminate. The cost of the centralization, the outsourcing and the subsequent extra resources that have been devoted to reapplications and extra planning are unknown, but it seems reasonable to assume a hefty price tag.
Although it seems to be too late to correct these issues for the 2008-2009 school year, the pre-K admissions process should be monitored and scrutinized for the 2009-2010 school year. With an increasing amount of young children in our neighbourhood, parents need to be informed in good time of these pitfalls and problems when applying to pre-K and other public education programs. Also, the effects of the centralization on the educational planning of the schools within School District 15 should be evaluated, since a potential lowering of public education standards may very well have an indirect effect on real estate prices within the Columbia Street District, not to mention our children.
Some links of interest: