Updated May 5, 4:21 p.m.
An additional 600-seat elementary school will be built on the grounds of the Hunters Point development project, but Long Island City parents did not have much time to celebrate this news when they began to discover that many of their children were put on a pre-K waitlist this week.
The Gantry Parent Association, a group that advocates for more school seats in the area, started a petition on Wednesday when they took an informal survey on their Facebook page to ask who had been waitlisted for P.S./I.S. 78 or the Pre-K Center.
The group received a flood of responses, with many parents saying they were placed in other schools such as P.S. 76 in Astoria or P.S. 111, which parents say are too far away, or schools not on their list. School seats have long been a concern in the area, especially with many new residential developments in the works.
TF Cornerstone, the developers behind Hunters Point South, will build a second elementary school at their site, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer announced this week. The developers were forced to redesign the building on Parcel C to accommodate Amtrak tunnels underground, he said, and this allowed for the opportunity to add a new school.
“More and more families are moving to Hunters Point, and we need schools to keep up,” he said.
This influx is part of the reason why the city needs to come up with an immediate “short-term solution” to the lack of pre-K seats while students and parents wait years for new schools to be built, argued Jen Theien, co-founder of Gantry Parents Association.
“More high rises are going up, so [there are] many more children that are going to be coming to this area with still no solution,” Theien said. “This community is amazing. Everybody is friends [and] we all want our kids to grow up together. There’s just nowhere for them to go.”
She said parents are grateful to elected officials like Van Bramer who have worked hard to advocate for additional schools, but those schools are “years down the road” and a short-term solution is needed now. Theien’s children also did not get into their first-choice programs and she said she sympathizes with other parents who are stressed.
As of Thursday morning, 481 people have signed the petition, which is addressed to nine city officials including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, Borough President Melinda Katz and Van Bramer.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the number of pre-K seats in Long Island City has increased from 261 in the 2013-2014 school year to 1,156 in the 2016-2017 school year. In School District 30, the number of applicants who received admission to their top choice school increased from 59 percent to 63 percent.
The DOE could not release the number of students placed on a waitlist in Long Island City because the list is still being distributed to schools, a spokesperson said.
“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,” said DOE spokesperson Devora Kaye. “Our pre-K outreach team will support any families exploring their pre-K options to find the best fit for their child.”
Families who did not receive their top choice in Round 1 of the process can apply in Round 2, which includes programs in Round 1 that have additional seats. There are only 36 seats in P.S./I.S. 78 and the Pre-K Center, and applicants are not entitled to a pre-K seat at their zoned school, the DOE said.
“My daughter was placed in a school that we did not even rank as part of our application submission, one far inferior in ratings and performance than our zoned neighborhood school,” Long Island City resident Bob Finale said in the petition. “This should not be deemed appropriate nor acceptable to any DOE employee or anyone else that has been elected to serve the LIC community.”
Families must pre-register here by May 20 to either accept their Round 1 offer or apply for a seat in a program for Round 2.
DNAinfo first reported the story.