Volume 81, Number 17 | September 22 - 28, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

P.S. 234 waitlisted students get good, timely news

By Aline Reynolds

A group of parents breathed a sigh of relief when they found out days, and in some cases, even hours, before the start of the new school year that their child was going to be able to attend a neighborhood school.

Thirty-eight prospective kindergarteners previously on P.S. 234’s waitlist were either offered a seat at the public school or at another Downtown elementary school, according to P.S. 234 parent coordinator Magda Lenski. Spots at the neighborhood schools became available, Lenski explained, because many of the families made alternate plans over the summer, namely choosing private schools or gifted-and-talented programs.

Earlier this year, the waitlisted families at P.S. 234, at 292 Greenwich St. between Chambers and Warren Sts., were petitioning against the N.Y.C. Department of Education’s original decision to offer their children seats at P.S. 130, a public school at 143 Baxter St. in Chinatown, that many deemed too far away.

“It’s very good news for everybody,” said Lenski of the results. “I think the families are very glad they’re [staying] in the neighborhood instead of having to travel across town with a five-year-old.”

D.O.E. spokesperson Frank Thomas said in a statement that seats at the Downtown schools opened up “as part of the normal process, and we are happy most parents got their preferred outcome.”

“When students are waitlisted,” Thomas continued, “we are obligated to provide them alternate offers, as we did in this case.”

The 11 children that now remain on P.S. 234’s waitlist will be offered spots at the school through mid-fall, if and when there are additional openings, Lenski noted. Otherwise, the waitlisted youths will get priority in the school’s first grade class next year over youngsters new to the neighborhood.

Marc Siden, who lives a block away from P.S. 234, said he was “elated” when notified that his daughter, Riley, was accepted to the school. Siden previously thought he would be sending Riley to P.S. 130, where he feared she would have a difficult time adjusting.

“Although she would have been fine after a while, it would have been that much more traumatic for her to start at a school where she didn’t know anybody,” said Siden, noting his daughter already had friends in the neighborhood.

Besides being able to accompany her to and from school every day, “It was very comforting to see her rejoin a lot of her friends,” said Siden. “We felt very lucky.”

The accommodation of P.S. 234’s waitlisted children, in turn, allowed P.S. 130 Principal Lily Woo to accept all 17 siblings of students in the Chinatown school’s upper grades. None of P.S. 234’s waitlisted children ended up accepting their offer at P.S. 130 once they were given the option to attend a school closer to home, the principal noted.

“I’m glad it worked out the way it did, but I think the whole system…caused a lot of anxiety for parents,” said Woo.

While she is still welcoming in newcomers, Woo said she is reluctant to take in kindergarteners who have already accepted seats at other public schools. “I’m not a believer in taking children out of a school if they’re already settled there,” Woo said. “We don’t want to be perceived as taking in children for the sake of filling classes.”

P.S. 130 parents were equally pleased with the outcome, including Civic Center neighborhood resident Ed Lam, whose five-year-old daughter, Alisen, was offered a spot there the day before the start of the school year. “We were ecstatic — we dropped everything and we ran to the school,” said Lam.

Lam said he had never anticipated a problem with sending Alisen to P.S. 130, since his older son, Adrien, is enrolled there. “[The D.O.E.] shouldn’t be able to override their policies to accommodate another group of families [over siblings],” said Lam.

Had Alisen not gotten a seat at P.S. 130, Lam was going to home-school her, since P.S. 1, the family’s zoned school, isn’t as highly ranked and Transfiguration Lower School, a local private school, was at capacity.

“Having four children go to four different schools would have been very, very difficult, if not impossible,” remarked Lam. “We have to go in three different directions as is — to drop them off and pick them up.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver released a statement saying he was thrilled to hear that the kindergarteners waitlisted at P.S. 234 were appropriately accommodated. “It is vitally important for children, especially those in elementary school, to be as close to home as possible,” said Silver. “For that reason, I will continue advocating for more schools in Lower Manhattan, so that families in our community continue to have access to high-quality educational opportunities.”

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