Pre-k students at P.S. 304 who wanted to secure a spot in next year’s kindergarten class were initially told that they would have to enter a second lottery.
After the pre-k parents lobbied the Department of Education for more than a month, district superintendent Timothy Behr announced at a Community Education Council 8 meeting on Wednesday, February 15 that current pre-k students at P.S. 304 who live in the P.S. 14, P.S. 71, and P.S. 72 school zone will be given second priority for slots in the kindergarten class at P.S. 304 next school year. The school will also expand its kindergarten to include four classes, P.S. 304 principal Joe Nobile said.
Children with siblings already attending P.S. 304 get first preference for open seats.
A group of concerned pre-k parents had lobbied Behr and the Department of Education to give them priority after learning in January that they would have to enter their children in a separate lottery to obtain a spot in next year’s kindergarten class at P.S. 304.
The addition of approximately 25 seats to the kindergarten program allows the school to absorb extra students from a separate lottery for one year, while at the same time preserving educational continuity for the pre-k students who are already familiar with much of the building and the staff, Nobile said, adding that he was proud of the efforts of the parents who secured the support of much of Community Education Council 8, Community Board 10, and elected officials including Councilman Jimmy Vacca.
“The most astonishing thing was that the parents had their voices heard,” Nobile stated. “This particular group of parents were very passionate and sophisticated, and they had a wonderful platform.”
The parents spoke very eloquently and created Powerpoint presentations to get their message across, Nobile stated.
Councilman Jimmy Vacca stood by the parents, and was critical of the plan originally proposed by the Department of Education, whose spokesman said that the P.S. 304 parents were experiencing was a citywide education policy in place since at least 2009. Vacca’s help was instrumental in helping these students progress at the school, Nobile stated.
“I believe strongly that there was an insufficient parent consultation between P.S. 304 and the DOE, and I am pleased that DOE did not move forth with any change in the kindergarten-admission policy,” Vacca said.
“The proposed changes were not thoroughly discussed and the importance of early childhood education could not be overemphasized.”
By creating the extra kindergarten class, the school community feels that the DOE was able to make sure that everyone had a fair chance of attending kindergarten at P.S. 304, while at the same time being fair to the pre-k parents who have already won a lottery to get their child into the school, said P.S. 304 PTA president Rita Diaz.
“It was just very fortunate to have our voices heard,” Diaz stated. “Mr. Nobile was an instrumental leader.”
The pre-k parents were thankful for the support received by elected officials, the CEC, and Community Board 10, said parent Katchen DiCristina. Community Board 10 sent a letter of support of the pre-k parents after discussing the matter and listening to pre-k parents remarks on Thursday, January 19.
The DOE’s concession is for one year only. The general policy, in place citywide, will be enforced thereafter.