I am the parent of a child in pre-kindergarten and am newly elected to a PTA board in Brooklyn. Our zoned school is a lower performing and not highly sought after school in a district that is overcrowded because of what the other schools offer. I was hoping to work on improving parent involvement, increasing retention at the school and raising funds for enrichment programs at this school. Today we were told that because of decreased enrollment we are losing a teacher. For now I am focusing on the short term crisis of how to either gain 33 students or raise $125,000 in a few weeks. In the long run we need a parent coordinator (ours has been out since 1/2013), and ideas of how parents could work with the administration to make this a school where parents want to send their children. I would really appreciate any guidance on how to proceed!
Dear Pre-K parent,
You have three tasks -- maybe a dozen, but three to start with. You need to build up the school's reputation among parents of young children. You need to raise money. And you need to engage the administration in forging a new perspective. As you noted, these are long term projects -- you won't see results right away but in their pursuit, you will build up a strong stakeholder constituency. In fact, a strong constituency engaging parents, teacher and administrators, as well as the wider community is key to any kind of school improvement effort. See also what I wrote about ways to attract students to a zoned school in a previous column.
For more immediate results try posting a notice on neighborhood parent listservs to let parents know that seats are still available in your school. You can also post notices on supermarket bulletin boards and in local storefronts. I don't know if 33 kids will show up, but it's a start.
The NYCDOE will mail decision letters for public school pre-kindergarten (pre-k) applicants this week and families who were matched to a pre-k program may register at schools from June 5 to June 19.
Families who applied online will receive email notification as well as letters in the mail. Parents should contact the school to arrange a time to register.
To register, bring your child and these required documents:
I know that kids are required to go to school a certain amount of hours and days. Can you tell me how many hours of school are required and if they are different at different grades?
Your question opens a complex set of issues – bound up in state law and regulations, allocation of state aid and New York City's own variations, developed with the United Federation of Teachers and codified in their contract.
Students in New York state are required to attend school from age six. (In NYC the age is five, except that parents can choose to opt out of kindergarten and start their six year olds in 1st grade instead.)
When figuring out the length of the school day and hours of instruction, keep in mind that state laws define minimum hours. Increased number of days and hours are allowed, provided that the union agrees. Charter schools are not bound by these rules, indeed most charters have extended instruction time, and many non-charter public schools do as well.
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.
My granddaughter is three years old and my son and daughter-in-law are beginning to hunt for a pre-kindergarten for September, 2013 when he will be four years old. Can you offer any suggestions?
Your family is lucky to have an involved grandparent – I can see you are ready to research the field. There are a few steps that will lead you to the program that is right for your granddaughter and there is plenty of time to carry them out. However, be forewarned: Not all four-year-olds actually get a slot in a public school pre-kindergarten. Last spring 30 percent of the applicants were without a seat after pre-kindergarten acceptance letters went out. Although some seats opened up and parents could continue to apply over the summer, there are no guarantees.
Pre-k applications are last on the admissions line. In 2012 applications were due April 10 for programs located in public schools. The 2013 admissions calendar is not yet set but you can sign up on the Education Department's website for updates. As long as you meet the deadline, acceptance does not depend on when the application was submitted. For pre-kindergarten in community organizations such as Y's or Head Start programs, admission is on a rolling basis. You apply directly to the CBO and there may be additional requirements and in some cases, fees.
I know you’re busy. I know you work three jobs, are taking care of an aging parent, are getting a divorce, have health issues, have kids in two different schools and you breathe a sigh of relief when your kid goes to school in the morning and you know someone else is in charge, if only for a little while. I get it. But I do need one thing from you. I need to know you’re there.
It doesn’t need to be much. A signed permission slip, submitted on time. A response to a question or a question sent to me about an assignment, or even a critique. Just something to let me know that there is a living, breathing parent out there that is keeping an eye on their child and their classroom life.
Offer letters for public school pre-kindergarten slots went out this week and once again about one-third of the families of four-year-olds were disappointed. In a year when there were more applicants than ever -- 29,072 as compared to 28,815 in 2011 -- there were only 22,505 seats. About 70 percent of the applicants got offers to a morning, afternoon or full-day program, but 30 percent did not.
That's a slightly higher percentage than in 2011, according to Education Department statistics, mostly because there are several hundred more seats available this year. Families who got a placement may register now through June 22.
There are still seats available for full-day and half-day programs -- 10 percent of the seats remain unfilled, including 1,371 spots in the more desirable full day programs. A list of schools that may have open seats is posted on the DOE's website.
Not surprisingly, there are no pre-kindergarten openings in a few of the most sought-after and crowded districts. There are no schools with open seats in Manhattan's District 2; only one school has seats in District 15 in Brownstone Brooklyn and neighboring District 20. In District 26 in Queens, generally the highest performing in the city, only one school has openings for a half-day program. District 4 in East Harlem and District 5 in Central Harlem, have numerous schools with availability in full-day programs. District 6, covering northern Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood has seats only in afternoon programs. Many schools have open slots in Brooklyn's districts 19, 21 and 22. In the Bronx, districts 7 and 12 list the most schools with openings in full-day programs. Five Staten Island schools have openings only in afternoon programs.
Families who wish to be on a waitlist for a slot must contact each school starting Monday, June 18. As spots open up, they will be given out through a lottery, with preference first to zoned students with a sibling in the school, then to zoned students and then to students with a sibling who lives in the district.
Only children in those three categories will be offered open seats before September 21.
This week's offers were for public school programs; there are thousands of seats available at community organizations and daycare centers which have a separate application process.
For the full breakdown of school-based pre-kindergarten admissions from 2008-2012, click the graphic above.
(updated 4:30 p.m. with a link to schools that still have seats available)
It's going to be a Wild West waiting game for anxious prospective pre-kindergarten parents this year.
Even though acceptance letters don't go out until June 11, one Brooklyn school has already created an on-line waitlist in an effort to limit the chaos.
"We have not received any guidance from the DOE," said Charmain Derrell, parent coordinator at PS 9 in Prospect Heights. "We are organizing it ourselves so we're not swamped right before school lets out."
Siblings will get preference, and then it is first-come first-serve, Derrell said. But DOE officials warned that waitlists shouldn't be in place before parents know where their children have been accepted. They promised to clarify the process this week.
Parents of children who turn four in 2012 have a few more days to apply for public school pre-kindergarten programs for next September. The Education Department extended the application deadline from April 5 to April 10.
Online applications will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on April 10. Parents who prefer to fill out a paper application must go to an enrollment office and apply there before 3 p.m. on April 10. In previous years paper applications were included in the directory and could be mailed in. But the DOE is no longer accepting applications by mail.
Also for the first time in several years, this year there is only one centralized application round. After the DOE places students in June, schools with space available will enroll students directly. Parents will find out the week of June 11 whether their child has gotten a spot. Registration takes place June 12-22.
Best advice for families who don't get in anywhere is to get your child on a waitlist at the preferred schools. Schools will offer spots as they become available.
I thought I was courting disaster when I took my four-year-old to Brooklyn's two-hour long pre-k information session Monday night after a full day at pre-school. But with the assistance of an extra large slice of pizza and a cupcake-making app, we made it through without meltdown.
There are upcoming sessions in each borough -- the next one is Thursday in Manhattan -- and you will learn more at them than you can from simply downloading the directory. Officials used a Power Point presentation in a darkened auditorium at Sunset Park High School to explain what a typical day in pre-k looks like, how to apply, and they stuck around for questions afterwards.
There was, however, some jargon about "aligning to common core standards" and other policy efforts that weren't explained in a way that was easy to understand. The Power Point presentation didn't exactly explain how pre-k was "the first step to college and career readiness," but officials were friendly, knowledgeable and more down to earth when answering specific questions. And it was a relief to hear a DOE representative tell us that "when you give children lots of time to run around and play, it helps them intellectually too."