The city Department of Education has placed slightly fewer incoming kindergarteners on wait lists than it did last year, despite receiving over 2,000 more kindergarten applications.
But the news is unlikely to console the thousands of families who don’t yet have kindergarten seats for September. Wait lists at 105 schools contain 2,361 students, meaning that the average wait list is 25 percent longer than it was last year.
The numbers reflect an annual rite of spring as parents register at their nearby elementary schools but land on wait lists because there are more zoned applicants than there are kindergarten spots. All together, officials said the department received 72,289 applications from families in the 29 school districts where students must apply to their neighborhood schools, though they could not say how many individual students the applications represented.
The department is emphasizing small but significant reductions in the annual space crunch. The number of schools with waiting lists, with waiting lists longer than 50 students, and with very short waiting lists all fell since last year.
And in three districts that no longer have zoned schools, almost all students got into one of their top three choices. In the two districts — District 7 in the Bronx and District 23 in Brooklyn — that switched to a districtwide choice model this year, 98 percent of applicants were admitted to one of their top three choices, according to the department. In District 1, which has had districtwide choice for years, that figure was 93 percent.
But the 105 schools with wait lists have an average of 24.5 students waiting for placement, far more than the the 19 students on average who languished on wait lists at 125 schools last year. And some schools saw their wait lists balloon: Last year, 55 zoned students were placed on the wait list at Manhattan’s P.S. 41, but this year there are 100 zoned students on the list. At P.S. 307 in Queens, 167 zoned students are on the wait list, compared to 109 last year.
City officials emphasized that between now and the end of the school year the wait lists at all schools would likely diminish. In the coming months, some families will move away, enroll their children in private or parochial schools, choose gifted programs, or withdraw from their zoned schools to accept spots in charter schools. Officials said they would open more kindergarten classes where they could find space.
“We know this is an anxious time for families,” said Devon Puglia, a Department of Education spokesman. “But most importantly, all families will receive a kindergarten offer by the end of the school year.”