NY Real Estate Bust Spells School Waiting Lists

SchoolBefore you start worrying about college waiting lists, you can prepare by worrying about your kid landing on the waiting list for the local public elementary school -- if you live in New York City, that is.

Thanks to the real estate boom and bust, the little red school house around the corner -- in the neighborhood you set your sights on because it had a good public school -- can no longer guarantee a seat for your child, the New York Times reports. For the second year running, the paper says, hundreds of families are now on waiting lists for elementary schools in their own neighborhoods.

What can distraught parents do? Well, there's going to be a lottery.Here's how it happened. During the housing market boom, developers built and buyers bought, especially in neighborhoods with reputable institutions of learning, of which there are many in the city. The idea was, don't bolt for the 'burbs, but stay in the great city and get the best of all possible worlds - including a good school.

Schools were filling up but were not overcrowded. But then came the bust. Many of the well heeled parents who so easily wrote annual checks for $30,000 or so for fancy private schools are now battening down the hatches and sending their kids to the local P.S., which is now OK for their kids to attend.

The result: too many kids and too few seats in many school zones and everyone mad at the city for not keeping up with demographics and expanding schools earlier to meet the changing needs. The Education Department says that, in fact, on the Upper West Side -- where a lot of the wait listing and hand wringing is taking place -- school buildings are underutilized as a whole and that kids should be distributed more evenly by adjusting local school zones, the Times says.

Don't know if that will go down well among the parents who bought or rented their places specifically within a tightly regulated school zone, where the cut off on a street can sometimes mean those on the north side attend the equivalent of Yale and the south side kids go to Ramapo State.

Interestingly, it's not just the fancy zip codes on the Upper East and West sides and select downtown locales that are in trouble. The Times says there are overcrowded schools and waiting lists in Sunset Park and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn due to an an influx of middle-class immigrant families.

What's happening now is a lot of kvetching and complaining and meetings to discuss overflows, shifting students around, and who should go where. Oh, and maybe building a few new schools.

You'd have better luck with the lottery before that happens.
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