Your 5-year-old is guaranteed a seat in kindergarten whenever you register—whether months in advance, the first day of school or even after the school year has begun. However, it’s best to apply early if you hope to enroll in an overcrowded neighborhood school, or if you want to explore other options. Most schools offer tours in January and February, with applications due in February. In 2013, the Department of Education introduced a new online application called Kindergarten Connect. For entrance to kindergarten in 2014, parents fill out a single application, listing up to 20 schools, online, on the telephone or in person at an enrollment office between Jan. 13-Feb. 13, 2014. Families who do not apply during that period will still be able to register for kindergarten after February, either at an enrollment office or at the school. For more information and the timeline, see the DOE's website.
In general, your child is guaranteed a seat in your zoned neighborhood school. (Call 311 to find out which school that is.) In recent years, however, some very popular schools have become so overcrowded that they cannot accommodate all the children who live in their zone. In these cases, the schools maintain waiting lists. Many children are eventually admitted off the waiting list (as families who originally enrolled their children move out of the city or opt for private school or gifted programs). However, in some cases, your zoned school may be too crowded. In that case the Office of Student Enrollment may send your child to another school in your district.
There are three districts which no longer have zoned elementary schools: Districts 1 (Lower East Side), 7 (South Bronx) and 23 (East New York, Brooklyn). In those districts, families fill out a single application listing the schools to which they wish to apply, and submit the application online, over the telephone or in person at an enrollment office. Every district has a directory of schools which is availailable on the DOE's website, or in a hard copy version at the district or enrollment office.