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As my eldest son prepares to enter kindergarten this fall, I can think of little else. I’ve entered charter school lotteries, toured our zoned school and the just-out-of-zone schools that we could get bumped to if ours fills up. Anyone I talk to who has a child or even knows a child is sure to hear about my worries: Is Noodle ready for the chaos of our local progressive elementary school? Would team-teaching or gen ed be the better choice? Would the structure of a Success Academy be helpful or would Eva Moskowitz beat all the creativity out of him with her much-vaunted four-inch heels? So the other day when my husband off-handedly asked, “You signed up for kindergarten, right?” I had to shuffle my feet like a nervous preschooler. “Um, no. Not yet.”

I have four days until the DOE application deadline. Considering that I’m the kind of person who has been known to RSVP to parties after they’re over, four days feels like an eternity. Still, I know I’m playing with matches. If something goes wrong and I can't register, Noodle becomes a pawn of the DOE, placed wherever there’s an empty seat. I’ve come close to applying. I really have. But things keep getting in the way. Doctor appointments, school tours and writing are just a few of my excuses.

Just scrambling to find all the paperwork to prove that I live where I say I live has been surprisingly difficult. Who gets Con Ed bills in the mail anymore? Pay stubs on paper? Please. After weeks of killing trees and commiserating with other moms, I finally have my packet ready: birth certificate, a copy of our lease, my husband’s W2, and a not-so-nice letter from the IRS that, though embarrassing, has our address on it. So what’s holding me back?

Quite simply, I’m just not excited. What should be a wondrous rite of passage for my son has become a subject of anxiety and compromised ideals. At the very mention of the word “kindergarten” I let out a large sigh, feel my blood pressure rise and launch into an increasingly well-rehearsed rant. In my quest to ensure that Noodle’s kindergarten experience is perfect, I’ve already made it unbearable.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 26 February 2013 13:49

Apply now for K: Our Brooklyn & SI picks

Parents should submit applications for kindergarten by March 1, particularly if they want to explore options outside their zoned neighborhood school. You may apply directly to as many schools as you like: be sure to bring your child's birth certificate and proof of address. You'll find out in April if your child has a seat.

In most cases, you are guaranteed a seat in your zoned neighborhood school--whether you apply now or later in the spring or summer. But if you want to consider all your options (or if your neighborhood school is so crowded that it has a waitlist) now is the time to get started.

We've researched some neighborhood schools that may have room for children outside the zone, dual language programs and unzoned schools that select via lottery in Brooklyn and Staten Island, the city's largest and smallest boroughs. The city's new elementary school directory is another useful source of information. We'll offer another post on charter school options next month.

District 13: Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, part of Park Slope & Brooklyn Heights

Arts and Letters in Fort Greene is a highly sought after school that holds a lottery for kindergarten admissions. PS 133, a small school in lower Park Slope which was displaced for several years, is moving into a new building in September. It is now unzoned and serves both districts 13 and 15. It offers dual language programs in French and Spanish. PS 11 and PS 20 in Clinton Hill usually have space for out of zone children, even though PS 20 may not let you know until suimmer.  PS 9 in Prospect Heights has a dual language program that takes native Spanish speakers from out of zone. PS 307 offers the only Mandarin Chinese dual language program in the district. PS 282 in Park Slope is a traditional K-8 school that is a top pick for many out-of-zone parents.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 21 February 2013 11:40

College Counselor: Figuring out financial aid

Q: We live in a rental apartment in NYC, and own a home in another state. We had to move to New York for work. We rent the house that's out of state and the income helps to pay for our rent here. We fear that colleges will see the house we own as an investment property or vacation home rather than as a primary residence, which is usually exempt from financial aid calculations. Should we sell the home or take other measures to improve our financial aid standing?

A: College admission does not mean simply being admitted – it also means significant financial commitment. Yours is a complicated question, and actually one that is outside my area of expertise, as I am concerned with the academic aspects of admission. Still, I can point you in the right direction, as well as address the general issue of where to go for college-related financial advice.

But first -- and this is for everyone planning to apply for financial aid – file your FAFSA now, if you have not already done so. The acronym stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It costs nothing to file this form. If you get anything in the mail or see anything on the Internet that charges you for financial aid information, toss or delete! This information is free. An important thing for all parents to remember is this: if a website ends in .gov or .org or .edu the information is free; if a website ends in .com there is cost involved. For FAFSA information, go to the government website: www.fafsa.ed.gov.  Another good source: Insideschools and the Center for NYC Affairs published a FAFSA guide. Here's the link.

Published in News and views
Monday, 11 February 2013 10:57

Apply for pre-k beginning March 4

A heads-up to families of kids turning four this year: Applications for public school pre-kindergarten will be available March 4 online, at elementary schools and at Education Department enrollment centers. Families must submit applications by April 5 and will hear about acceptances in early June. Applications for programs located in community based organizations (CBOs), such as Y's, preschools and other childcare centers, are separate and are available at each agency that offers pre-kindergarten. (There is rolling admission for those programs and some fill up quickly).

Any child who was born in 2009 may apply, but seats are not guaranteed. Programs are housed in public schools or at local daycares and pre-schools, and are either half day (2.5 hours), or full day, (6 hours and 20 minutes.) The state mandates that each pre-k class may have a maximum of 18 students with two teachers.

How do you find out which schools offer programs? Early in March directories will be posted online, or you can get paper copies at schools, daycare and Head Start centers and DOE enrollment centers. Directories of which schools are offering pre-kindergarten this year are online at the DOE's website but be aware that programs change from year to year.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 07 February 2013 12:21

Parents active in planning new 'Slope' school

Kindergarten registration is underway at PS 118, a new District 15 school opening in September, designed to ease overcrowding at a few of the most popular Park Slope schools, including PS 321 and PS 107.

In fact incoming parents and Elizabeth Garroway, who is expected to be named principal, have already jointly decided to name the school after children's author Maurice Sendak, DNAInfo.com reports. It will be the Maurice Sendak Community School.

PS 118 will be moving into a former parochial school building, St. Thomas Aquinas, at 211 Eighth Street. That building has been occupied by PS 133, which will be moving back to its original location, with a newly constructed building, at 4th Avenue and Baltic. PS 118's zone was carved out of the western side of PS 321's zone, roughly comprising the area betweenThird and Fourth avenues and President and Sixth Street

Garroway, who has been an assistant principal at PS 321, is planning a multicultural approach for PS 118 "to prep students for college and the world," DNAInfo reports.

Parents have already started a Facebook page, PS 118 Founding Parents and are organizing to create a new playground and a garden. Families can meet with the principal and register for the school during her office hours at PS 133. Check the Facebook page for details. In addition to two kindergarten classes, PS 118 will get two much-needed pre-kindergarten classes, parents report.

Read more about the plans for PS 118 on DNAInfo.com and on the founding families website.

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 11:10

Kindergarten Take 2: Repeating not redshirting

Elementary school applications are due in a month, which raises questions—as it does every year—for parents of kids who are technically old enough to start kindergarten in the fall, but who will be younger than most of their classmates.

Two years ago, I was one of those parents. My son's birthday falls at the end of the year, which means he'd always been one of the youngest at daycare and preschool. If I'd been planning to put him in private school (or if we lived almost anywhere outside New York City) he'd have been scheduled to enter kindergarten in 2012, after his 5th birthday. Since city schools determine grade assignments by calendar year, he was slotted to start in the fall of 2011, while he was still 4. I decided back in preschool that at some point early on, I'd finagle the start of a school year so he wouldn't move forward with the age cohort he was born into. So, this year he finds himself in kindergarten for the second time.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, I'm far from alone: Somewhere between 9 and 14 percent of kids across the country either start kindergarten late or repeat their kindergarten year.

Published in News and views
Monday, 28 January 2013 20:33

Ask Judy: How do 8th graders get HS news?

Dear Judy,

Can you tell me when the high school placement results will come out? How does the school tell the kids the news?

8th grade Mom

Dear 8th grade Mom,

Results of the high school applications are due out March 15 (alas, for some parents, that date is later than when private schools let their applicants know.) The placement results, in sealed envelopes, are picked up by each middle school from their local enrollment office. Along with the letters comes a list of all applicants and, in some cases, the schools use this list to determine how the letters are distributed.

Schools vary in the way they distribute the letters and the news, so you'll need to ask your 8th grade guidance counselor how your school handles it.

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 23 January 2013 11:34

Ask Judy: When should I move for G&T?

Dear Judy,

We currently live in Brooklyn but now we are considering moving to either Riverdale (Bronx), Astoria or Long Island City for reasons of work.

Our daughter is applying for G&T Kindergarten level (she is taking the test next weekend). By when do we have to have physically moved in order to be zoned correctly for the upcoming 2013-2014 academic year? For example, do I need to have an address for April 1st? Does it matter that the address is specifically located within a G&T program school (like PS 122?)

Moving Mom

Dear Moving Mom:
 
It would be best if you move by April 1 because that will give you time to to change your address in the online registration system before you receive your application. That way you would be offered the correct application for your new district. You may have a few weeks leeway to move before April 19 when applications are due back, but you would have to make contact with the central enrollment to let them know about the new address. You won't need to show proof of address until you register in June but you would need to have a correct new address where you can receive mail before then.
Published in News and views

For the first time ever families in three school districts that no longer have zoned elementary schools may apply to kindergarten online, over the phone or in person at an enrollment offices, the Department of Education said this week.

District 1 on the Lower East Side has long been a "choice" district, with no zoned schools. In November, Community Education Councils (CECs) in two other small districts, District 7 in the South Bronx and District 23 in Brownsville, voted to do away with zoned elementary schools, exercising one of the few real powers that CECs have.

The DOE just centralized the application process in the three districts, making it similar to pre-kindergarten admissions. There is only one application, with parents rankings schools in order of preference. In the city's other 28 districts, parents apply for kindergarten individually at each school, even their zoned school.

"The single application is more convenient for all families," said Gentian Falstrom, director of elementary school enrollment for the DOE. Many children in districts 7 and 23 already attend schools outside their zone. Unlike neighborhoods in the city where the schools are overcrowded, many schools in the South Bronx and Brownsville have extra room for students.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 10 January 2013 12:29

Applying to kindergarten? Here's what to do

The official kindergarten application period ---  yes, you do need to apply to kindergarten – begins on Jan. 22 and goes through 3 pm on March 1. If you’ve got a child turning five years old in 2013, there are a few things you need to know.

Kindergarten is now required in New York City for children turning five during the calendar year. Parents may opt to keep their child out until 1st grade but schools may not turn away any five year olds. Even if a school is overcrowded, a seat must be found in a nearby school.

Submit an application, even if you are applying to your zoned school. You'll need to submit several documents with proof of where you live. Don't know what your zoned school is? Call 311. You apply individually to each school; there is no centralized application as there is with pre-kindergarten. The exceptions are three districts of "choice" (more on those below).

Published in News and views