tale of two waitlists: there are too many people at your beloved zoned school

If you wanted your zoned school and there were too many other zoned families for the school to take everyone, and you received a placement at a school other than a school on your app or your zoned school, you may be on the Capped Zoned School wait list. It is a totally different animal from the wait lists that I described previously. Here is how it works.

This list is numbered and your spot on this list will be sealed in amber through first grade placement. You will be surprised, hurt, mad and frightened that you got a placement at a school that may not have been on your application and you may never have even heard of. Generally, unless the DoE is able to accommodate you at a school that is on your application, they will send the capped families to the same alternate placement. In early reports is seems that families from PS 39 are being sent to 124 and families from PS 154 are being sent to 295. The 'overflow' schools will change from year to year as the capacity in all schools change. There is no official 'overflow' school that you can count on from year to year.

In past years, you would have a distinct numbered spot on the wait list that the city gives to the school, but it is up to the school to keep you posted on how the wait list is moving. Some schools keep quiet about how it is moving (a 'don't call us, we'll call you' approach). This will drive you insane. You will feel that they are stone cold bitches who stand between you and your heart's desire. They are anything but- they are also trying to stay sane, stuck between a rock and the DoE with nothing but crying, yelling people every time the phone rings. I have a lot of nerve asking you to be patient and kind to them after you have been sucker punched in the stomach, but it isn't their fault. They may be keeping the cards close to the vest because they don't want to give out inaccurate information, so it may just be the better part of valor to give no information.
People who panic drown. Remain calm.

You have all been given a placement. You will have until April 8 to pre-register there. You WILL NOT get some imagined advantage by not registering. Not pre-registering does not force the DoE's hand in any way. You will be placed on a regular wait list (like everyone else) for any school that you have ranked higher than the school that you were placed in (except your zoned school - where you are on the special Capped Zoned School wait list).

None the the schools know anything until after April 8 registration is over; not your zoned school, not the DoE, not closer schools that you might prefer as an alternate placement. Some zoned families who were assigned to your school will not register and the wait list will move a little bit after April 11. Then there will be G&T scores and ranking and placement and AGAIN, some people will leave your zoned school and people from the Capped list will be called in to register. This process is slow and it happens in drips and drabs. It may continue through the summer, but usually the secretary in charge of registration is not in the school in the summer. There will be the last flurry of movement in the fall, after the first week of school. At that point the school will find out who actually hasn't shown up (and there will likely be a few people who have moved and haven't told the school). Registration is over on Oct. 31. If you have not been called back (and I know of at least one family from 39 that did not get a placement back at 39 in k), you remain at the same spot on the wait list that you left at kindergarten and you wait to see if there will be any seat for you at first grade. There is often some attrition and the class sizes can get bigger at first grade, so there will likely be some room. There is no 'guarantee' for your zoned school at first grade. There are fire regulations and union rules about capacity. If and when you are offered a seat back at your zoned school, if you love your new school, you can stay. It is your choice.

One last thing. Once you are on the general wait lists that are managed by individual schools (not your Capped wait list), you could get offers all out of order from schools that were on your application, not your zoned school. It doesn't matter. You can accept or reject any and all offers that come to you. As you register at a new offer, your old registration is voided, opening a seat in that school for someone else. If you take an offer- you still on the wait lists of ALL the other schools, including your zoned school. If charter schools and G&T programs come into the mix, it is also- accept or reject whatever may come. You will be attending the last school that you have registered at. That is why there can be this huge, slow round robin.

Some families have raised the fact that last year, their school was under capacity and there was room to grow. That was last year. Those kids are affecting the capacity at first grade (not kindergarten). It is clean slate for kindergarten and the school has a finite number of classes and seats in those classes. If, because of the birthrate in 2011, and people moving into and out of the zone this year, the number is greater than the seats available- there is no way to predict it. The school could be under capacity again next year. It is my understanding that the Principal does not have autonomy over the number of classes in her school. A budget line needs to be approved at Central to hire a new teacher and if you add a kindergarten class, you need to have enough classrooms in the school to have all those k classes move through each grade. It is not just about adding 25 kids in one year. It also has an effect on all the grades in an oblique way.

I am terribly sorry that you have to go through this. Try and stay as calm as you can. Many of you (and I will actually say a prayer, that all of you) will get a seat back at your zoned school, sooner or later. Courage.