It's going to be a Wild West waiting game for anxious prospective pre-kindergarten parents this year.
Even though acceptance letters don't go out until June 11, one Brooklyn school has already created an on-line waitlist in an effort to limit the chaos.
"We have not received any guidance from the DOE," said Charmain Derrell, parent coordinator at PS 9 in Prospect Heights. "We are organizing it ourselves so we're not swamped right before school lets out."
Siblings will get preference, and then it is first-come first-serve, Derrell said. But DOE officials warned that waitlists shouldn't be in place before parents know where their children have been accepted. They promised to clarify the process this week.
Last year, close to 9,000 children did not get public school pre-k seats, but the city held a second round to allow parents to re-apply to schools that had open seats. After that there was even a third round. This year, there is no second round. Families who do not get a pre-k slot must either apply in-person or by phone to schools that still have openings, or get themselves onto waitlists, which are managed and maintained by individual schools.
Staff at several schools in Brooklyn neighborhoods that often have a shortage of pre-k seats echoed Derrell's concerns about the process.
"We haven't been given a directive this year," said PS 295 Parent Coordinator Shari Fields. The popular Park Slope school has received calls from a handful of parents asking to be out on the waitlist. "No one knows if they need to be on the waitlist yet," said Fields. "I'm not doing it until the process is over or until my principal tells me I should."
Staff at PS 15 in Red Hook, PS 8 in Brooklyn Heights and PS 10 in Park Slope were unaware that there was no second round this year and assumed the process would be the same as it has been for several years.
DOE officials said parents who receive a seat will be allowed to register starting June 12 through June 22. After that time, schools should set up waitlists with sibling preference and then give priority to students who are zoned for the school. DOE officials said more details would be made available to schools on Wednesday.
The takeaway here for parents is that if you want to get into a particular pre-k program, be consistent and persistent. Call the school to find out when the waitlist will be open. While there are guidelines for the waitlists, it won't be handled centrally. Staying on top of your place in line can't hurt.