May 5, 2016 By Jackie Strawbridge
More than 500 parents are petitioning the City to find a new temporary pre-Kindergarten space in Long Island City, after an estimated 100-plus students were waitlisted for the program at PS 78.
The petition was launched online Wednesday and had already garnered more than 500 signatures as of Thursday afternoon. The Gantry Parent Association, a local education advocacy group started last year, launched the petition.
The Department of Education did not respond to questions regarding the number of waitlisted pre-K students at PS 78. However, a pre-K site coordinator put the number at 133 in an email that has been shared with the LIC Post.
“Unless serious efforts are made, families will be faced with the harsh and impracticable reality of having to uproot and move out of New York City due to insufficient Pre-Kindergarten seats,” the petition reads. “We respectfully request the Mayor, elected officials, the Department of Education, and the Department of City Planning immediately redouble their efforts to locate and establish a temporary facility to relieve this educational emergency.”
In response, the DOE argued that serious efforts are being made.
“Through Pre-K for All, the number of free, full-day, high-quality pre-K seats in Long Island City has more than quadrupled, and we’re continuing to work with the community to expand pre-K options and better match pre-K seats and family demand,” DOE spokesperson Devora Kaye said. “Our Pre-K outreach team will support any families exploring their pre-K options to find the best fit for their child.”
According to DOE officials, there are 1,156 full-day pre-K seats in Long Island City for the 2016-17 school year compared to 261 in 2013-14. The DOE also stated that 81 percent of students in school district 30 received a pre-K offer to one of their top three choices.
The DOE also pushed against the notion, stated in the GPA petition, that pre-K students have a right to a seat in their zoned schools. Unlike Kindergarten admissions, the Pre-K for All program does not entitle students specifically to a seat at their zoned schools.
However, the ability to grow up in the public school system locally has long been a critical issue for Long Island City parents; for many families, it was a major factor in drawing them to the neighborhood, and why possible middle school truncation at PS/IS 78 seemed so alarming.
“Children attending their neighborhood school is imperative for the success of an expanding Long Island City,” the petition reads.
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer echoed these sentiments.
“All children should be able to attend school close to home. Long Island City is growing rapidly, which is why this year, I advocated to secure funding for three new schools in the neighborhood, which should be built in the next few years,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “The Mayor’s office, the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority must make sure that parents in LIC can send their kids to pre-K close to home and I am already fighting alongside the community to make sure they do so.”
Students who did not receive their first choice can apply for Round 2 of pre-K admissions. Round 2 applications do not affect current offers or waitlist status.
The Round 2 deadline is May 20. More information and application materials are available online here.