Kindergarten options in Brooklyn are as diverse as the borough itself. In the largest districts, schools are packed and most families attend their neighborhood schools. Others have room for students from out of zone, and even out of district. Charters crowd central Brooklyn but have little presence in northern and western Brooklyn. Magnet programs and dual language programs give parents options in some neighborhoods. In other areas, waitlists may present challenges but persistence can pay off.
In Staten Island, the city's smallest borough, there is much less school choice -- only one unzoned school and a few charters.
Here's a rundown.
District 13: Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, part of Park Slope & Brooklyn Heights
Community Roots Charter School and Arts and Letters in Fort Greene are highly sought after schools that hold lotteries and give preference to district families. PS 11 and PS 20 in Clinton Hill usually have space for out of zone children. PS 9 in Prospect Heights and PS 133 in Park Slope have gotten much more popular with local parents, but often have space, but parents may have to stay on a waitlist until August. PS 9's dual language program takes native Spanish speakers from out of zone and PS 133's French, and new Spanish, dual language programs do as well. PS 282 in Park Slope is a traditional school, with a district gifted program, that is a top pick for many out of zone parents. (Its gifted program is only open to district students, though.)
District 14: Williamsburg and Greenpoint
PS 110 in Greenpoint has a nice arts program and takes out of zone students, especially in its French dual language program. Williamsburg's PS 250, PS 257, and PS 380 have magnet programs that accept out of zone children. PS 84 in Williamsburg still struggles with low test scores, but it is improving under a new principal and still has some space. The school has a good Spanish dual language program and will have a NEST program for autistic students. The Ethical Community Charter School and Brooklyn Success Academy, two new charter schools with very different approaches, have attracted parent interest. A new Success Academy school is slated to open in the district in September. Some families leave District 14, making an easy commute to the East Village to attend DIstrict 1 schools.
District 15: Carroll Gardens, Sunset Park, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Red Hook
District 15 has lots of good schools but many are overcrowded. In 2011, PS 39, PS 94, PS 107 and PS 124 turned away zoned children for lack of space (although PS 94's Spanish and Chinese dual language programs may take out of zone children). While some problems will be fixed for 2012, it is likely that a few schools will have waitlists for kindergarten. All children are guaranteed a seat at a school in the district. PS 261, PS 230, PS 10 and PS 295 are all good schools that may have space, but last year they took in the overflow from other schools. PS 32 in Carroll Gardens is a tiny school with extra room. PS 58 in Carroll Gardens is overcrowded but out of zone native French speakers have a shot at getting into the dual language program. The Brooklyn New School in Carroll Gardens is a sought-after school that uses a lottery system for admissions, open to all of Brooklyn. Siblings of current students get priority. The Children's School in Park Slope also holds a lottery and gives preference to District 15 residents; about half of the slots go to special needs kids. The Success Charter Network is planning to open a school in Cobble Hill.
District 16: Bedford-Stuyvesant
PS 21 and PS 335 are good schools with space. Excellence Boys Charter School of Bed-Stuy offers solid academics for parents who are looking for a disciplined and structured environment. It is one of six mostly traditional charter schools in Bed Stuy.
District 17: East Flatbush, Crown Heights and Prospect Heights
In Crown Heights, PS 241 is a good option and PS 189's Haitian Creole and Spanish dual language programs take students from all of District 17. PS 249 in Flatbush historically has taken many out of zone students, although its proposed expansion will probably limit the number next year. Lefferts Gardens Charter School gives priority to District 17 residents.
District 18: Flatbush and Canarsie
District 19: East New York
PS 89 has a good arts program, a Spanish dual language program and is open to all children from District 19. PS 190 and PS 273 have space and PS 290 takes a few out of zone students. The Spanish dual language programs at PS 108 and PS 214 take children from all of District 19.
District 20: Borough Park, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and part of Sunset Park
There were six schools in District 20 in 2011 that turned away zoned kindergarteners for lack of space but recent re-zoning is aimed at easing the problem. The changes make it tough to know where there might be space. The Academy of Talented Scholars in Bensonhurst is open districtwide as is the Russian dual language program at PS 200.
District 21: Coney Island and Brighton Beach
District 22: Ditmas Park, Midwood, Mill Basin, Sheepshead Bay
Even though PS 217 in Ditmas Park is packed, parents have been told that the school takes out of zone kids. PS 193 in Midwood and PS 52 in Sheepshead Bay have a few out of zone seats. PS 245 in East Flatbush has space. PS 361, which only goes through 2nd grade, is worth a try. Your best bet in this increasingly crowded district might be at one of the 11 Gifted & Talented programs, or getting your name on a waitlist at your preferred school, knowing you might not find out about a slot until August or September.
District 23: Ocean Hill, Brownsville, and part of East New York
Many schools in District 23 are struggling academically. Leadership Prep charter schools in Ocean Hill and Brownsville are new and part of the Uncommon Schools network. The schools are highly sought after by parents looking for a very structured and discipline-oriented school. The Brooklyn New School is not a nearby option, but it is open to all Brooklyn residents and prioritizes diversity in its admissions.
District 32: Bushwick and Bed-Stuy
PS 384 and PS 45 in Bushwick have space for out of zone students. The Spanish dual language program at PS 123 takes children from all of District 32. PS 376 has a Gifted & Talented program open to all children in District 32 who score a 90% or above on the exam.
Most children in Staten Island go to their zoned neighborhood school. Three other options:
PS 65 in Tompkinville is open to children from across Staten Island.
A new charter school, Staten Island Community Charter School. accepts children by lottery.
Michael J. Petrides is a K-12 school for children from across the borough.