These pictures may look like serious tail-gaters, people waiting for the latest gaming console or indie rock fans desperate for Sujan Stevens tickets, but, alas, no - these are actually taken from the parking lot of PS 236 in Mill Basin. Why? Parents are very eager to sign up their children for coveted pre-kindergarten places.
2007_03_prek2.jpgInside Schools describes PS 236 thusly:

PS 236 is a well-run, well-equipped school in a neighborhood with lots of stay-at-home mothers and one- and two-family homes with manicured lawns. Fifth graders lead The Pledge of Allegiance and sing The Star Spangled Banner over the public address system each morning. Classes are tracked, with children placed in groups according to their abilities. Homework is heavy. "They start homework at 4 in the afternoon and don't finish until after dinner," one parent said. "This breeds discipline and will pay off down the road." Even kindergarteners have homework assignments, such as filling out a phonics worksheet from a workbook. The school has an inviting library with classical music playing, plants, dioramas made by the kids, and big windows that overlook a playground. Students in all grades perform and stage musical plays.

We spoke to a public school teacher who explained why pre-k seats are so hard to come by: Her school has 10 first grade classes, 8 kindergarten classes, and two pre-k. Additionally, kids who have siblings already at the school get preference.

Here's information about applying to pre-kindergarten from Inside Schools. And here's the Department of Education's information on applying to pre-k.


And the Post reveals that the first parent on line was Amy Giagrande, who "logged in parents so they'd be free to move around during the night." And apparently the parents had a cook-out and "watched movies on a bus equipped with TV screens that was donated by a former student."

Photographs by Stern Rockwell