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Fewer soon-to-be-kindergarteners waitlisted by new admissions process

Geoff Decker

The number of students on a waiting list for kindergarten is half of what it was last year, city officials announced Monday—a shift they are attributing to the city’s new application system.

There are still more than 1,200 soon-to-be kindergarteners without seats in the school they are zoned for. But that’s a marked decline from the nearly 2,400 students waitlisted last year and 3,100 waitlisted in 2011.

The numbers were released as officials sent letters to parents and families of the 67,000 students who applied for kindergarten seats through a new registration system called Kindergarten Connect. That system was meant to improve upon an old process that required parents to physically visit schools they wanted to apply to, which officials said last year wasn’t “family-friendly.”

This year, the city centralized the application process, which families could complete either by filling out an online application or selecting and ranking up to 20 schools over the phone.

Then and now, every student eligible for kindergarten is guaranteed a seat, even if their zoned school is full. But the city’s kindergarten waitlists had become notorious for raising parents’ anxieties in the spring—when popular zoned schools had more applicants than seats—though those lists often shrunk dramatically in the next few months as students decamped for charter or private schools and freed up additional seats.

The city attributed the drop in waitlisted students to the new process, in which applicants each received one offer. The department said it offered more non-zoned seats to families than in the past, which freed up seats for other families seeking spots in their zoned school.

Seventy-one percent, or 47,700 students, received offers to their first choice school; nearly 13 percent received offers to their second or third choices; and 5.5 percent received an offer to a school not listed among their top three.

Nearly 11 percent of applicants were not offered a choice listed on their application at all, though officials said that most were offered a spot in their zoned school.

Implementation of the online system didn’t come without complaints from parents without Internet access, who didn’t feel comfortable using the online system, or who wanted face-to-face interaction with their child’s future school. Others said they wished they had someone to help them through the application process.

A department spokesman said that parents could also have applied at enrollment offices located in each of the city’s boroughs, and a small number applied by bringing their applications to the department’s central enrollment offices.

“We’re proud the waitlists have shortened and will continue our work to connect students with their zoned schools,” department spokesman Harry Hartfield said.

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