This is what happens at kindergarten placement time:
Expect to be placed in your zoned school (even if you have not ranked it on your application). That is generally what happens every year. A few people who wanted a school other than their zoned school will be lucky and the DoE's mission is to place you in the school that you have ranked high on your application, but the match also takes into consideration, your geographic and sibling priorities and that is the reason that you may not have gotten your heart's desire if it is out of zone.
You will also automatically be placed on a wait list for any school that you ranked higher than the school you are placed in. These wait lists are not numbered, but have people grouped according to their geographic priority (out of zone sibs, out of zone/in district, out of zone/in borough, etc.) They don't number these wait lists because if people move into the zone in the spring or summer (with a high priority to the school) and you are an out of zone applicant, they bump you. If the list were numbered there would be lots of yelling about why your number has moved in the wrong direction. As the spring and summer shake out (with charter, un-zoned and gifted & talented placements) those wait lists can move quite a bit, but you have to be patient. There can even be movement after school has begun. Attempting to volunteer, or leverage your PTA friends doesn't work. These are public schools. They serve all children. Fairness to the DoE means a lottery. If you think that I am being naive, consider this- these schools are also very high profile and accepting a family who is attempting to leverage a placement would be a career killer for a Principal. Being patient and present until a seat opens according to your geographic priority is how people get seats from out of zone. Being ready to accept an offer after school has begun when all other people are no longer on the wait list is what 'works'. Many people may never receive a wait list placement when the schools are so crowded and popular.
We know now which local schools had significant "capped wait lists" among their zoned families (PS 8, 29, 58). Most of them in the neighborhoods closest to Manhattan although, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge have historically had serious problems that seem to remain year after year. Remain calm. You will be placed in a school (whether from your list or not) and you should pre-register at that school to save yourself a seat for K. This DOES NOT disadvantage you for your zoned wait list- it just makes sure that you have a seat for Sept. if all falls through. If you don't register at the school to which you are assigned, you better have a good plan B. The wait list that you will be placed on as a zoned family in a capped school is different than the wait lists that I described in the first paragraph. This wait list will be numbered and your place on that list will remain the same through first grade. Your spot on that wait list has been assigned randomly (it doesn't matter how close to the school you are or how long you have lived there). As the school pre-registers families who have been lucky to be assigned, the school will see that there are seats that are not filled and begin to call down that capped wait list (don't expect it to move until after the deadline for pre-registration, likely in early to mid April). After that there will again be big movement when g&t placements are made (May-June?) and in the first weeks of Sept. when the school sees who is actually showing up. When and if you are called back to your zoned school to pre-register, you will have the choice to go or to remain in the school to which you were assigned. If Halloween of kindergarten comes and goes without your being 'called back' to your zoned school, you remain on the wait list in the same order in hopes that they will take you at first grade. There is no 'guarantee' of a placement in your zoned school at first grade, but it could be likely since there is often a little bit of attrition and the class sizes can get larger. They guarantee you a seat at k somewhere and they will try their hardest to put you where you want, but there are fire regulations and limited square footage and in growing neighborhoods like these, those things are a challenge.
News reports are also talking about how the City has made "over offers" to these capped schools, for example they have made 170 placements for 150 seats in a school - and that means that a wait list begins already with 20 people in the hole. Here is what I see:
- The City has ALWAYS made over offers. This is not new.
- Large wait lists that have been cleared in the past (with 30-50 students on them) were in the SAME situation (working first through the over offers)
- There will be more than a couple people in that "over offer" who will be taking private school placements, gifted seats, moving, going to charter... so it isn't as long a list as you think.
- There will be people on the capped wait list ahead of you in line, who won't take the offer because they are going to private, charter, g&t or moving.
It is a terrible blow to be sent away from your beloved zoned school, but people who panic, drown. Remain calm and let the process play out. There are SO many really quality educators in so many of these neighborhood schools, both the ones that you want and the ones you are not sure of. Please try to find the good and stay patient. For many, if not all of you - good things are out there.