Tensions Continue to Build Over Enrollment at BPC's P.S. 276

Principal Terri Ruyter says the school cannot take more than three kindergarten classes next year.

Kindergarten registration begins this month, again sparking waitlist worries and crowding concerns at Downtown schools.

Nowhere are those concerns more acute than at P.S. 276 in lower Battery Park City, where parents fear that their school will be saddled with more 5-year-olds than it can handle.

Last month, P.S. 276 parents started a petition that calls on the Department of Education to limit the number of kindergarten classes in the school to three—the number that the school was intended to house when it opened in 2010. The DOE opened five classes this school year and the last, and four the year before.

School parents and other Downtown school activists as well as Community Board 1 have also long asked for new temporary classroom space, as well as the siting of new schools, to take care of the student overflow.

“If we continue to add classes at that rate, obviously we won’t have any room in the school after not too long,” said PTA co-president Matt Schneider.

With the need for a solution growing urgent, according to parents, Schneider and other school leaders were hoping for a DOE response to their request. It was to come, they thought, at the monthly meeting of Sheldon Silver’s School Over­crowding Task Force on Dec. 20. But Drew Pat­terson, the DOE’s dir­ector of plan­ning for South  Man­hattan, did not attend. (He was preparing for a meeting that ev­ening, said Jah­meliah Nathan,  ex­ec­utive director of the DOE’s Office of Public Affairs, who told the group she was there to listen and report back on their concerns.)

Nathan promised that Patterson would be at the next meeting on Feb. 7, as well as at a planned sit-down with Prin­cipal Terri Ruyter early this month.

“Yeah, he canceled the first one after I asked repeatedly for meetings,” complained Ruyter, who later told the Trib that she has been requesting to meet with Patterson since the middle of October.

Ruyter, who fought against the additional two kindergarten classes this year, has made no secret of her displeasure with the DOE’s handling of enrollment at her school and what she calls its lack of a “proactive solution.”

In Sep­tember, she issued her own “overcrowding study” that, among its conclusions, said that the admission of five kindergarten classes in 2013 would mean that P.S./I.S 276 would be over capacity by six classes in the 2015-2016 school year.

But if the DOE does limit the kindergarten classes to three, Ruyter said, parents need to know now. “Kindergarten enrollment is already happening,” she said. “If their second choice is private school, then they need to get cracking on that because contracts are due. If there’s not a seat you have to have a backup plan.”

A DOE spokes­man did not respond to questions about the city’s kindergarten admission plans for P.S. 276—or when they will be decided. But in response to crowding questions in October, a DOE spokesman said that capacity is analyzed on a wider geographic basis, not school by school. For Lower Manhattan that includes China­town where, they have said, P.S. 1 is a likely alternate choice.

“We are on track to meet the growing demand for school seats in Lower Manhattan,” the DOE said in a statement, noting that the city has opened more than 2,000 new seats in Lower Manhattan, and have more than 1,500 seats funded and sited in the city’s 2010-2014 capital plan.