PS 8's overcrowding

It is not new news that PS 8 is very very crowded and their kindergarten class may be "capped" in fall of 2015. That means that there may not be enough seats available for all in zone families at K. I have found, in other neighborhoods where this has been a problem (look to Park Slope and Kensington for Brooklyn prototypes), that the families who have the best outcomes are the ones who stop shaking their fists in frustration and try to affect change and/or avail themselves of the system which may also provide them with a wide range of school options. The DoE will do what the DoE will do, but they are not against listening and numbers will always get attention. You will feel frustrated through this process and rezoning (which will happen with a new plan or building) is always painful for someone.
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wait listed for kindergarten

It is that time of year again. The DoE's official list of numbers of waitlisted zoned students is online.
Check out the very wise "Ask Judy".

Here are a couple things that you need to know. This is a giant game of musical chairs and it is still early days. It is definitely not time to panic. There will likely be some movement this week as zoned schools tally the number of zoned students who actually came in to pre-register. Some of those families got places at charter, un-zoned, dual language and private programs and will take those places, leaving seats at their zoned schools open. As people vacate seats, others will take those spots which will leave more vacancies. Everyone has a different 'favorite' school, so lots of seats in many different schools will be in play. The seats at those schools will slowly and steadily trickle out.

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107 wait-list

Parents of prospective PS 107 kindergarteners in the south slope have been waiting on pins and needles to find out if their children will have a seat in the school in fall of 2011. There has been a wait-list of over 40 families who have actively been lobbying for relief and assistance in finding appropriate seats for their kindergarteners. Parents feel that they were blindsided and weren't able to prepare for this last minute wait-listing. If they had some warning, they could have gotten on the wait-lists at nearby programs (which are currently closed), applied for lottery or independent programs and lobbied for changes that could helped the population at the school. They are not the only ones, according to different reports, PS 39 and 196 among others are over capacity with in-zone families. In the past the children from PS 196 have been the only District 15 population that the DOE has had to place in other schools. Last year they were sent to PS 172, PS 124, PS 32 and PS 94.

One of the points that the community has been making is that the school had petitioned to remove the one prek class in the building to accommodate the k overflow with a new kindergarten classroom. The request was denied, but it appears now that it may be moved to a separate location. There was movement a couple days ago when 25 children came off the list. Reports are unclear about whether the school consolidated an upper grade class to open up a new classroom or whether the prek will be moved. So far there has not been much movement from parents enrolling their children in private school. There may be some relief when the gifted and talented placements as well as lottery schools (BNS, the Children's School and the Charter schools) are made.

Because of capacity laws (only 110 children can occupy the cafeteria at a time) the kindergarten classes will eat lunch in their classrooms. Lunch shifts run from 10:30 to 1:10. Unfortunately, this is not unusual.

The DOE has responded to requests to come to Brooklyn to discuss local kindergarten enrollment with parents on Thursday, April 7th at 6pm in the John Jay  auditorium on 7th Ave. between 4th & 5th St.

krazy k registration

Families in Brooklyn want to attend public school! That is the good news. Now the bad news - schools are finding that they don't have enough kindergarten seats to go around.

Here is the process in brief:
In the late winter (this year from Jan. 10 to March 4) is the application period. Schools offer tours and zoned families as well as out of zone families who want to try for a spot at the school must apply for a seat. This is NOT REGISTRATION. It is a head count (although a required one). The school has no idea before this application period of how many children might attend in the following year. It is also a time to build a wait-list of families who want to gain entry from outside of zone if they have seats left over.

From March 21 - March 25 the schools will notify in zone (and sometimes out of zone families if they have enough room) that there are spots open for them in kindergarten.

From March 28 to April 15, they schedule times for the families to come into the school with their child, their proofs of address, birth certificate and immunization records to PRE-REGISTER.

It is common practice for schools to save some small number of seats in reserve for in zone families that had no idea of the process, or for families who move into the zone after the application period is over through the spring and summer.

It is also true that the G&T process as well as the wait-lists for Charter and Unzoned schools move throughout the spring and families who have pre-registered at schools with register at the other programs and their seats will become available at the zoned schools and the wait-lists there will move. This is an ongoing process through the spring and summer.

What if you misunderstood the application process and didn't apply at your zoned school?
You will probably be placed on a wait-list at this time (don't panic), just because you are in between processes. Keep in touch with the school. It is likely after the first wave of registration happens that you will be brought in to register.

What if your zoned school says that they don't have room for you?

This has been a problem in Manhattan and other boroughs for a couple years and in Sunset Park in D15 last year. The popularity of the south slope schools is proving to be a problem for zoned families in PS 39 and 107 this year. Check out report , as well as report from last year.

I asked Manhattan school guru, Robin Aronow, what happened last year for families squeezed out of their zone. And this is what she told me:

"The way it has worked in Manhattan is that after April 15th, when pre-registration is over, the wait-lists will start to move.  BTW 40 is not a lot on a wait-list (unless families tend not to go to private school or G&T). Sometime in May, if a family still remains on a wait-list, the Office of Student Enrollment will make an alternate offer to a school in the neighborhood that has room.  The family can remain on the wait-list of the original zoned school until October of the start of kindergarten.  If the family has still not come off the zoned  school wait list by October 1st, the original zoned school may take no more students for that school year and everyone else who moves into the zone goes to the bottom of the wait list.  Prior to September of 1st grade, if there is space in the original zoned school for 1st grade, then families who were placed elsewhere will be called back in order of their original lottery number.  It is possible that there will still not be enough room for 1st grade.  However, my guess is everyone or almost everyone will be placed by September of kindergarten and most likely by 1st grade."

PS 133 at St. Thomas Aquinas School

The Brooklyn Paper reported back in June that PS 133 would be housed in the St. Thomas Aquinas School building while construction was done further north on 4th Ave. The school building has been underutilized for a few years now and I have watched in anticipation as the porta-potties and cranes moved in. I stopped by this morning and filled in a couple of details.
The DOE has the lease for at least 3 years. The building is very well built (as you can imagine considering its vintage) and the construction authority has been making an investment in it. A lot of good work has apparently been done to upgrade it. The work will be finished by Sept. for the first day of school. The building should also have a wireless network. I also inquired about any news on the new construction at the 133 building. I will be sorry to see the graceful old building and beautiful garden go. One new thing that I hadn't heard was that the architects where hoping to include as much of the old detail as possible in the new project. This certainly doesn't address the neighborhood's other many issues with the project.

What happens to the St. Thomas Aquinas school building in three or four years after 133 moves on? There has been talk of an art center there, which would be wonderful. I would love to see a public early childhood center that could relieve the PreK and K overcrowding that is happening all along the 4th Ave. corridor.

Sign This Now!

This is what Brooklyn is about! Grassroots community activism. Brand new neighbor, Melissa Morgenlander, wants to know if you want a Public PreK Early Childhood Center in the northern part of District 15 (Sunset Park already has the terrific Magnet School for Early Childhood)

I did some very fast numbers based on the Accountability reports from last year. The schools I listed were ones that are not within range of the Magnet School for Early Childhood and they didn't seem to be breaking even on their preK/ K populations. Check out 107, 146, 261 and 321 in particular. As the buildings on 4th Ave. fill up 321 will need it's preK classrooms for K and the population at 124 and 295 will most certainly increase.
PS 10, prek 54 seats, K 87 seats
PS 15, prek 29 seats, K 50 seats
PS 29, prek 54 seats, K 79 seats
PS 39, prek 36 seats, K 61 seats
PS 58, prek 70 seats, K84 seats
PS 107, prek 18 seats, K 84 seats
PS 124, prek 35 seats, K 39 seats
PS 130, prek 52 seats (but none of them is full day) K 83 seats
PS 146, prek 36 seats, K 81 seats
PS 261, prek 36 seats, K 108 seats
PS 295, prek 36 seats, K 52 seats
PS 321, prek 52 seats(but only 18 are full day) K 191 seats

Even if your children are too old for preK, I urge you to take a look at Melissa's petition. Help your neighbors!

All Hail Sunset Park Parents!

The parents in Sunset Park are awesome. I attended a town hall meeting last night in celebration of their 40 year effort (supported by hundreds of parent activists and community organizers, yes!) The auditorium was packed to capacity with standing room spilling out into the halls.

Sunset Park has schools! A brand spanking new state of the art, 1650 seat HS building is going up on 34th St. and 4th Ave. to open Sept. 09. The construction authority was there to give progress reports (not grades.) It is on schedule.
This school that has already chosen it’s Principal, Corrine Vinal (a longtime educator and experienced administrator). It will have three learning communities within the school: Performing and Visual Arts, Health and Human Services, Business and Entrepreneurship. The themes were chosen by the community, as was the currently unprecedented model of having one principal to oversee the school. It is not a screened program. They are focused on college prep and there is priority for Brooklyn students.

8th graders, if you want to place this school on your list of 12, this is how you do it. It sounds weird, but it IS the procedure straight from the DOE. This school will not be listed in the directory. Don’t panic. Fill out your application. Don’t list Sunset Park HS yet. Hand in your registration on or before the appointed day in the fall. File a NEW FORM during the February 2009 application period for new schools. This form overrides the previous form. Rank Sunset Park High School along with your other schools in the order you want them. If you have questions about admission call OSEPO (212) 374-2363. If you have questions about the high school call the Sunset Park Task Force (718) 788-3500.

But wait there is more…for you preschoolers. There is a brand new public Early Childhood Center being built on 4th Ave. and 64th St. (on the 4th Ave. subway line) The first green designed school in Brooklyn. It will house 18 classrooms PreK through 2nd grade. It opens in 2010. This is a trend that local principals endorse. As the Elementary Schools become more crowded and PreK programs lose their spots, it makes more sense to group the PreKs into a centralized site. More on that later.

...heh Park Slope Parents, that sounds like a good idea! What is the Diocese doing with the St. Thomas Aquinas school building on 4th Ave. and 9th St? Would it be enough PreK seats for everybody who wants one, and relieve the overcrowding in all of our Kindergarten classes? You guys need to start making some calls.

Take Action

Important from Park Slope Parents:
Tonight, Monday June 23
Martin Luther King, Jr., High School
122 Amsterdam Avenue, at 65th Street
6:00 PM

The Panel for Educational Policy, which includes Chancellor Klein, will
vote on next year's executive budget. Go to this meeting and protest
school budget cuts! There will be an opportunity for public comment.

June 26, 3:30 PM, rally at City Hall to take a stand against school
overcrowding and to urge the DOE to take action in planning and building
more school seats.

Little activists and their families will meet in Battery Park City's
Teardrop Park after school to make signs.

And from me,
We don't have much time left to fight the budget cuts. Call your City Council Person TODAY and register your displeasure with the cuts. They vote on the budget this week.

I will have more on the school capacity issue in a couple of days, but this is very serious, especially if you have toddlers and preschoolers in Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Park Slope, Sunset Park and Williamsburg this is YOUR issue. It means very overcrowded classes especially in elementary school where they need to be smallest. It means that some of your children will probably have to leave your zone to find a public school, perhaps very far from your neighborhood. The DOE needs to see this issue for what it is. The Comptroller spelled it out in his "Growing Pains" report in May. The information that the DOE is working with is thoroughly flawed. There are not nearly enough seats in these neighborhoods for the incoming families. It is time to organize.

Why Do I Grind My Teeth When I Read What Joel Klein Says?

Read Brownstoner's interview with School's Chancellor Joel Klein with a #2 pencil in your teeth to prevent dental abrasion.
Joel says, "The current Five-Year Capital Plan, which allocates funding for school construction projects, does not currently include new building construction in district 13 because district 13 overall is enrolled below the total district-wide capacity, even taking into account additional planned residential units. That said, there are some individual district 13 schools whose enrollment is over capacity. In the next Five-Year Plan, which we will put out in November and which begins in July 2009, we plan to look at the potential need for school construction based on demographic patterns within districts and the accessibility of existing schools. This will be a first: we haven’t previously drilled down below the district level."
More teeth references! Drill Joel, DRILL. The whole story is in the demographic patterns not within the weirdly shaped District numbers as a whole. Being in a school where the DOE determined "capacity" was like watching an exercise in Alice in Wonderland logic. They go by the "Blue Book" instead of by the reality. From the Comptrollers Report, "In addition, the current Blue Book target capacity for middle schools assumes that standard classrooms (i.e., not art rooms, computer rooms, and the like) are in use for seven periods a day. However, teachers are required to teach for only five periods a day. Using each room for all seven periods thus would require an extremely complex scheduling process. It also means that teachers would have to use the teachers’ lounge for preparation, if one exists. In reality, therefore, it seems likely that many middle school classrooms are actually in use for only five periods a day, which means that the utilization figures reported in the Blue Book for middle schools are understated as a result of this factor as well. "

Joel says, "It takes about 18-24 months to build a new school, depending on the scope of work; this doesn’t include identifying a site and designing the building. The timing for construction is established by criteria in the Capital Plan. We don’t “wait” to build until schools are overcrowded, at any rate." Hello, "321"! When are the families that bought into high rises on 4th Ave. in the 321 zone going to find out whether there is room for them? I suspect it will be on the first day of kindergarten. Yes, there are seats in District 15, but not in the schools that people paid dearly to be in.
From the Comptroller, "Much of the new residential construction is on the up-zoned Fourth Avenue. Among the Fourth Avenue projects that will impact PS 39, PS 321, and PS 124:
PS 39 will serve students from the 54-unit Argyle Park Slope, now under construction between 6th and 7th Streets. Inside Schools observers wrote: “Another space challenge: there is no gym or auditorium. PS 39 was using facilities at a community center across the street, but that was in the process of being sold at the time of our visit. Gym teachers teach lessons in the classrooms. The building was constructed without a cafeteria.” PS 321 will serve children from the 68-unit Crest condominiums at 2nd Street; the 41-unit building at Carroll Street; the 151-unit Novo Park Slope at 5th Street, and the 113-unit residential building at 343 Fourth Avenue. Observers from Inside Schools called PS 321 a “large, overcrowded school.” Yet,
applying the housing unit-to-public school student ratios in the CEQR Manual for high-income
Brooklyn units, these developments can be expected to generate an additional 100 students for PS 321. PS 124 will be impacted by the completion of 500 Fourth Avenue, a 133-unit building under construction between 12th and 13th Streets, and The Vue, a 45-unit condominium at East 16th Street. Inside Schools observers noted, regarding PS 124: “While the school is pleasant and well-maintained, it has a cramped cafeteria and a small room that barely makes do as the gym and auditorium.” Given the excellent academic reputations of most Park Slope schools, these new buildings could attract a significant number of families with at least one elementary school-age child. The proposed 630-seat elementary school, which a SCA official told Comptroller staff will be sited in the “northwestern Park Slope area,” should provide some much-needed new capacity. However, design work for the new school is not
expected to start until June 2008 and the school is not expected to be completed until November 2010, according to the February 2008 proposed Capital Plan Amendment."

Joel says, "families enroll their children in charter schools entirely by choice — in other words, students are never “zoned” to attend a charter school. This means that charter schools must compete with other schools for students and must educate students well in order to continue operating." This is true, but the families that go out of their way to seek out and apply for the lottery in a Charter School are also self selecting. They have to be informed and actively invested in their children's education. If they had the option of a quality zoned school I wonder if the Charter Schools would be so popular.
Check out Brownstoners report on new Charter schools opening in Brooklyn.

NYC Comptroller, William Thompson's Policy Report "Growing Pains" is fascinating reading (No, REALLY, and not just in a Dentist's Office - to stay with the metaphor) It was actually so thrilling for me to read the truth coming from a government agency that I wanted to get it printed and hand it out on street corners. Please, please take a look at it.
"A number of rapidly expanding communities now—or in the next few years—will suffer from
overcrowded elementary and middle schools, notwithstanding the school capacity expansion projects in the 2005-09 Capital Plan. Among these communities are:
Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO. The 2005-09 Capital Plan provides for no new capacity in Brooklyn’s CSD 13, even though over 3,000 housing units are under construction or were recently completed in the PS 287 school zone alone; PS 287 had space for only 89 additional students in October 2006. PS 8 serves DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, where hundreds of residential units were recently completed or are under construction. According to the DOE Blue Book, PS 8 was at 118 percent of capacity in October 2006.
There are neighborhoods where, although population is growing more slowly, elementary and
middle schools are overcrowded, DOE projects that the CSD’s enrollment will increase, and the
2005-09 Capital Plan provides too few seats or none at all. Among these are:
Sunset Park. Although four Sunset Park elementary schools exceeded capacity and the fifth was at 95 percent, no new elementary school seats have been proposed for this community. Sunset Park is in CSD 15, which is one of only four CSDs that the Grier Partnership projects will gain enrollment by 2015.

I could keep quoting from it all day long. This report was issued in May and yet the Chancellor has the audacity to tell Brownstoner's readers that there are enough seats because the DOE is counting by Districts. This is fraud. Read it and then call your City Council person and Betsy Gotbaum's office and demand answers.

While you are at fight the budget cuts.