Fix the Waitlist at PS 196 in Queens & Give Waitlisted Kindergarteners Priority Over Pre-K
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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio via webform
New York City School Chancellor Carmen Fariña firstname.lastname@example.org
District 28 Superintendent Mabel Muniz-Sarduy, email@example.com
Principal of P.S. 196 Susan Migliano, firstname.lastname@example.org
Congresswoman Grace Meng, email@example.com
State Senator Joseph Addabo, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
State Senator Toby Stavisky, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
State Representative Andrew Hevesi, firstname.lastname@example.org
State Representative Catherine Nolan, email@example.com
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, katz@queensBP.org and firstname.lastname@example.org
New York City Council Member Karen Koslowitz, email@example.com
New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm, firstname.lastname@example.org
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, email@example.com
Public Advocate for the City of New York Letitia James, firstname.lastname@example.org
We are the parents and supporters of children zoned for P.S. 196. We find ourselves in the unenviable position of contacting our elected officials and school administrators to resolve the annual problem of insufficient Kindergarten seats for our children. In 2015, a dedicated group of parents and community supporters from Forest Hills petitioned you over the issue of waitlists in Forest Hills elementary schools at the Kindergarten level and received a satisfactory conclusion. Yet, a mere two years later, this issue has reared its ugly head again as P.S. 196 has a reported waitlist of almost 60 children for entry into Kindergarten for the 2017-2018 school year. Of those waitlisted, 56 are zoned for P.S. 196 but were assigned to other schools, many outside of their Department of Education (DOE) defined zones. It is a travesty and simply unacceptable that following the tremendous efforts and resolution to the 2015 Kindergarten waitlist issue that the DOE has not addressed the space issues in our schools and that we are faced with the same problem, with seemingly no permanent solution.
While it has been reported that long term solutions for the constant overcrowding of our elementary schools are in the works with a new elementary school slated to open in Forest Hills in 2019, this chronic problem needs immediate correction. The expectation that the DOE has placed on parents to either accept that our young children be forced to commute up to 45 minutes to schools outside of their zones or wait up to and beyond the start of the coming school year to find out if our children did get into their zoned school is unreasonable and unacceptable. As concerned parents, residents, and voters, we demand our children be allowed to attend their zoned schools this coming September and for that decision to be made in a timely fashion that would allow parents to properly prepare for the start of the school year.
As you know, and as was reiterated to you in 2015, Kindergarten is mandatory for all children and the entry grade to New York City Public Schools. Under the Chancellor’s regulations: “It is the primary obligation of a zoned school to serve its zoned students.” (Chancellor’s regulations, A-101, Section II.H.5). Currently, there is one Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) class in existence at P.S.196 and it is our understanding that the DOE intends to send out Pre-K acceptance letters for the 2017-2018 school year. Designation of space for a non-mandatory program, e.g., Pre-K, when there are Kindergarteners assigned to schools outside of their community defies logic, is contrary to the Chancellor’s regulations, and is unacceptable to your constituents.
Unless and until the DOE is able to provide seats to all zoned Kindergarteners, non-mandatory programs such as the Pre-K program at P.S. 196 must be eliminated until further notice. We acknowledge that it was with good intentions that the DOE decided to expand the Pre-K program to P.S. 196 in 2015. However, it is evident that P.S. 196 does not have the capacity or resources to accommodate a thriving Pre-K program alongside all of the children that are zoned to enter Kindergarten. The Pre-K application process has also become an exercise in frustration, similar to the Kindergarten application process, for parents of prospective students competing for limited space. Thus, our suggestion is that the Pre-K program at P.S.196 be removed from the school until a future point in which the new Forest Hills Elementary school opening in 2019 and the planned expansions of P.S. 144 and P.S. 303 are completed. This action will provide additional resources, space, and most importantly additional seats to accommodate all incoming Kindergarten children who reside in our zone. While we support the Pre-K program and believe in its value, it is not a mandatory program and has many other options besides public school resources. Our children entering into Kindergarten only have the public schools in our communities.
In addition to the elimination of the Pre-K program at P.S. 196, we suggest the following possible solutions to help alleviate this issue:
1. Eliminate the district wide lottery placement at P.S. 303 – It is a major source of frustration to have our children placed in schools outside of our communities when there is a school within our neighborhood which can provide seats for zoned students. We support the idea of an elementary school with a significant focus on the arts and the purpose that the school is meant to serve in the District. However, given the density of our residential population, the constant issue of overcrowding, and the lack of resources for those who reside here, we suggest that P.S. 303 be made into a zoned school for those who live within its perimeters.
2. Eliminate the Pre-K Program at P.S. 303 – The same reasons for the temporary elimination of Pre-K at P.S. 196 holds true here as well. There are two Pre-K classes at P.S. 303 which can provide additional Kindergarten seats as well as be utilized for overflow into the First Grade class to keep class sizes down until its expansion and the construction of new schools in the community.
In closing, we do not accept the waitlist status of our Kindergarten children. We do not accept assigning our children to schools miles away when there is available space in their zoned neighborhood school. Our children only have this one opportunity to experience their first steps into their public school careers. It is your responsibility, as our elected officials and school administrators, to ensure that the experience is a positive one for our children as well as for all the parents who support our public institutions with our tax dollars. Please rectify this matter and provide us with a solution by May 1, 2017.
Chana Topek Diamond
Rachel Nobel Fields
Lisa Mensch Wolf
Elizabeth Jones Polkovitz
Lois Sejarto Winters
Dina Soufeh Halili
Stephanie Weiss Kaplan
Jennifer Karben Yourman
Abigail Margulies Hellman
NAMES ADDED AS OF APRIL 12, 2017
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