Updated, Sept. 12, 2:20 p.m.
Though Teachers College Community School is younger than the kindergartners who are starting there this fall, the four-year-old Columbia-affiliated school on Morningside Avenue and 127th Street received more applications for its kindergarten seats this year than any other school in its district.
Applications for the school's kindergarten have been steadily increasing since it opened in 2011, school officials say. With 469 kids vying for 50 spots this year, TCCS has become the most sought-after kindergarten in most of Northern Manhattan.
"I think we're on a very good trajectory," Nancy Streim, TC's associate vice president for school and community partnerships, said.
The increase comes even as parents voiced concerns earlier this year that the New York City Department of Education's new online application portal, Kindergarten Connect, might prevent families without Internet connections from applying.
Streim, however, said that the school hasn't experienced any problems on that front.
TCCS opened in 2011 as part of the Community Benefits Agreement Columbia forged with West Harlem while planning its Manhattanville campus. The school is what the DOE calls a "choice school," which means it can receive applications from multiple districts.
The school draws from Districts 5 and 6, which comprise most of Northern Manhattan excluding East Harlem—an area parents of students at the school said has a dearth of quality options.
According to Streim, the school received between 150 and 250 applications in its first two years, and has been receiving between 350 and 450 since. Thurgood Marshall Academy, which had 180 kindergartners vying for 20 spots, received the next-highest rank in District 5, making it the 420th most popular kindergarten citywide.
Kathie Holsenbeck, whose daughter just started kindergarten at TCCS, said the lack of choice schools is problematic given the "huge influx of families" to the area in recent years.
To Lily Zhang, whose first-grade son attended P.S. M129 for kindergarten after being waitlisted at TCCS, the selective admissions seem warranted.
"It makes you feel so comfortable," she said of TCCS. "The other school feels so messy—it doesn't even feel like a school."
According to Streim, the school is able to offer additional instruction from Teachers College students who fulfill their fieldwork requirements at the school.
Other programs also result from the school's close partnership with Columbia, like the science-focused HYPOTHEkids, founded by Christine Kovich and SEAS professor Sam Sia.
Other parents, however, said they only chose TCCS after their applications to nearby charter schools were rejected.
"The charter schools are so challenging," Seu Keyna Gueye, who has a third-grade daughter and first-grade son at TCCS, said.
"I have another son in a charter school, and I can see that they [the charter schools] are more challenging," she added.
Streim, however, said there are inevitable difficulties with a new school.
"Opening a school and growing a school is always a work in progress," she said, mentioning the delayed construction on the school's playground, which finally opened this fall.
Still, she thinks TCCS is holding up its end of the Community Benefits Agreement.
"It's everything we would have hoped to provide the community, and then some," Streim said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the founders of HYPOTHEkids. The founders are Christine Kovich and SEAS professor Sam Sia. Spectator regrets the error.