Stringer to Walcott: We can fix "fictional" kindergarten wait lists

The start of the city’s eight-month kindergarten admissions season isn’t until January, but Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer already has kindergarten on his mind.

Today, Stringer is sending a letter to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott with suggestions for making the anxiety-producing admissions process easier on families and schools.

The current kindergarten admissions process has families registering for their local schools starting in January. By March, many schools are already maintaining wait lists. Between then and the first day of school, the lists thin out as families move, choose private school, or win admission to charter schools or specialized programs at other schools, which have different application deadlines. Most of the time, families that stay on the wait lists end up being able to attend their zoned schools — but only after months of worry and searching for back-up options.

“This is particularly problematic in school zones that are historically overcrowded because parents can experience months of unnecessary anxiety as their children sit on waitlists that often turn out to be, for lack of a better term, ‘fictional,’ Stringer writes in the letter.

The letter outlines steps the city could take to streamline the admissions process, for many families a first contact with the DOE’s bureaucracy. They include adjusting admissions timelines, automating admissions so students who are admitted to other DOE programs are taken off their zoned school’s register, standardizing applications, and offering school directories tailored to each district.

“The Kindergarten admissions process can feel overwhelming to parents, particularly those brand new to the system,” Stringer writes. “I believe these recommendations will help make the current process more efficient and easier for parents to navigate.”

An early official entrant into the city’s 2013 mayoral race, Stringer has asked Walcott for a meeting to discuss kindergarten admissions.