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).
There are priorities for admission, with first dibs to siblings of kids already attending the school. These are spelled out in the elementary school directory and in a Chancellor's Regulation. Because of pockets of over-crowding in some districts, there is no guarantee of admission to your zoned school. If there are more applicants than spaces available, a lottery is held. It is not a first come, first served system. All applications received by March 1 will be considered equally. If you are not given a space in your zoned school, you are assured of one in another district school and your child may receive busing. Space permitting, you can return to the zoned school in 1st grade or later.
Districts with no zoned schools
There are now three districts which have no zoned schools: District 1 on the Lower East Side, District 7 in the South Bronx and District 23 in Brownsville. In those districts there is one application form on which you rank schools in order of preference. You can apply online, in person or even over the phone. District 1 has long been an "all choice" district and held a kindergarten fair in December. The Community Education Councils in districts 7 and 23 voted in November to do away with zoned schools, and this will be the first year for school choice. Fairs will be held both districts in February, according to the DOE. Check the DOE's kindergarten page for updates.
Children with special needs
Children with special needs also go through the general application process, every school is supposed to offer needed special education services. The DOE is hosting a series of kindergarten orientation meetings for families of kids with disabilities this month. See the schedule here. Children eligible for District 75 programs serving kids with severe disabilities in a highly specialized environment will receive a placement right after their IEP meetings in the spring. Watch our video: "Touring schools for your special needs child."
Applying to G&T programs
The admissions timeline for admission to gifted and talented programs is different than general kindergarten admissions. Families signed up in October for testing in January and February. The results of the tests will not be sent to families until early April. Families have until April 19 to submit applications to specific G&T programs and they won't learn where they have been assigned until late May. See the timeline here.
Magnet, dual language and charter schools
Some neighborhood schools get federal magnet grants to offer curriculum with a special theme. Students zoned for those schools don't have to fill out a special application for the school but there is a separate application for non-zoned applicants. This year there are elementary magnet programs in District 3, on the Upper West Side; District 14, in Williamsburg and District 30 in Long Island City.
More than 80 schools offer dual language programs, where students receive instruction in both English and another language. The target is for half of the students to be native speakers of another language so, while zoned students receive preference in admission, unzoned speakers of a second language have a chance to be admitted as well. The elementary school directory lists schools with dual language and magnet program and a list of dual language programs is here. (The 2013-14 directory should be online this month.)
Charter schools give preference to students living in the district. Most accept applications until April 1 and hold admissions lotteries shortly thereafter. Each has its own application, although some share a common application.
Tour schools now!
Before applying to a school, be sure to visit. Most districts do not host kindergarten fairs introducing the schools to families, leaving it up to parents to find out about open houses and tours on their own. Sometimes neighborhood parents organize their own fairs. This weekend, a group of moms in Astoria organized a school fair for Saturday, Jan. 12. See our calendar for details.
Otherwise, see the school's website, or call the parent coordinator to find out when you can visit.
Don't know what you're looking for? Watch our video, "what to look for on a school tour."