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For pre-K families, 2013 is a year of big transitions. Our kids will be saying goodbye to the duck pond of preschool and jumping headfirst into the murky East River of kindergarten. Parents of kids with special needs have another hurdle ahead. The dreaded “Turning 5 meeting” determines whether those currently receiving support for developmental delays and learning disorders will continue to get it…or not.
For kids like my son, who are on the border of general education and special needs, the Committee on Special Education (CSE) is a tough sell. And kindergarten, with its larger class sizes and longer days, is a demanding transition. CSE doesn’t make it easier. Now Noodle will have to fit into one of 13 special education categories in order to qualify. Suddenly my quirky, bright, wonderful, often-exasperating child who never really fit any label will have to—if we want him to keep getting help.
The problem is we’re not sure. After two years of PT (physical therapy), OT (occupational therapy) and SEIT (special education itinerant teacher), Noodle is doing great, but the road has often been rocky.
Hurricane Sandy did away with the traditional week long winter vacation that celebrates both Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthday’s and conserves schoolhouse energy at the same time. This year all students get is a four day weekend. Here are some suggestions to make the most of it and take the opportunity to explore some free or very low cost -- and lesser-known -- attractions. Most are closed on Mondays, however, so plan those excursions for the weekend or Tuesday.
Federal Reserve Bank: Act quickly for a chance for older kids (16 plus) to visit the fabled gold depository and learn more about the institution that has been so much in the news since the economy went south. Call 212-720-6130 for immediate information about ticket availability—a 3-4 week wait for tickets is typical but either you’ll be surprised or you can reserve for a future date. Tours last approximately an hour, and begin on the hour from 9:30 am - 3:30 pm daily.
The Wall Street area and the 9/11 memorial, South Street Seaport, and Chinatown all have charms of their own – you can stroll about or make plans to visit museums and landmarks.
Whoever wins the Democratic primary for mayor, the candidate will likely be more sympathetic to public school parents and to the unions representing teachers and principals than Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been. That's the message from a candidates' forum on education sponsored by the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, the union representing principals and assistant principals, at Baruch College on Wednesday.
The Democratic candidates--Council Speaker Chris Quinn, Public Advocate Bill DiBlasio, Comptroller John Liu and former comptroller Bill Thompson--all criticized Bloomberg's dismissive attitude toward parents and his tough-guy stance on the unions. (Also on the panel was publisher Tom Allon, who recently became a Republican to run for mayor. The other Republican candidates, former MTA chair Joseph Lhota and Gristedes owner John Catsimatidis didn't attend.)
The candidates criticized the mayor's policy of closing failing schools (which forces unionized teachers and principals out of their jobs) and said struggling schools should get support instead. Liu, Thompson and DiBlasio called for an outright moratorium on school closings while Quinn suggested school closings should be used only as a last resort. DiBlasio and Liu reminded the audience that they are public school parents; all the candidates said they would put less emphasis on standardized tests and suggested that they would be more responsive to parents' concerns. Quinn described her efforts working with parents to find a new bullding for the Clinton School in Chelsea; Allon touted his work opening the Frank McCourt School on the Upper West Side.
The candidates agreed more than they disagreed, but did try to set themselves apart in response to questions by the moderators, Liz Willen (an Insideschools blogger and editor of the Hechinger Report) and NYU professor Pedro Noguera.
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.
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.
Can they please go back to school already?
Once again this morning, I woke up to a sprawl of sleeping teenagers in my home, their books, music and snowboarding equipment scattered about. They had no school today, due to a "citywide chancellor's conference day for teachers and staff,'' whatever that means.
They had no school last week either. And yet, in the weeks leading up to Regents week, they were buried in finals, while the seniors were simultaneously overwhelmed with essays and college application deadlines.
Not that my gang -- a senior and sophomore -- complained. They were thrilled to have the time off, even if I can't help wondering how once again, how I was caught unprepared for this onslaught of unstructured time.
Ever since Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed in his State of the State speech to invest state funds in expanding the school day or year, I've been listening for the objections. They cropped up again this week when he proposed in his budget to spend $20 million to expand learning time by at least 25% in high-needs districts.
Objections fall into a few categories. How do we pay for it? What's the benefit from more of the same school day? I've also heard parents say their kids are not robots who can sit at their desks for another three hours. The most depressing remarks are about kids who are so discouraged or disengaged, another minute of school feels like too much.
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?)
Families with children turning five years old in 2013 may apply to kindergarten beginning today, Jan. 22, through March 1. You must apply even if you want your child to attend your zoned school. In most districts, parents fill out an application at each school to which they are interested in applying. In districts 1, 7 and 23, which no longer have zoned schools, parents may apply online, on the phone or at borough enrollment offices.
For the first time this year, the Education Department produced hefty directories now online - one for each borough - of all elementary schools in the city. There is a page for each school, listing the school's address, phone number. the principal's email address, website and nearest public transportation. It also lists state test score results, Progress Report grades for the past two years, Quality Review scores and highlights from school surveys.
You can see at the top of each page whether a zoned school accepted any students from outside its zone for this school year -- a feature that is sure to be of interest to parents who are applying to multiple schools outside of their neighborhood. Be aware that some schools listed as not accepting students from outside the zone may have actually taken some in later in the summer or fall, as spaces became available. When you visit a school, make sure you ask whether they anticipate having room and how you can get on a waiting list if you are not accepted in the spring. The directory also notes those schools which had a waitlist for zoned students in June or September 2012.
Enrollment priorities for zoned and unzoned schools are spelled out, and you can see whether a school offers a dual language, magnet or G&T program and whether it is accessible for physically handcapped students. Each has a listing of all schools and programs in the city. Charter schools are listed as well.
Directories are available online. You can print out the entire borough directory (more than 200 pages long in some cases) or just your district's pages. Or, you might want to pick one up instead at a local school or enrollment office.
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.