Who may attend
Kindergarten is a right. Children who turn 5 before Dec. 31 the year they start school are entitled to attend. This includes undocumented immigrants, children with disabilities, children who do not speak English and homeless children.
School officials must find a space for your child without delay. If there is no room in your neighborhood school, your child may be assigned to another school.
You do not need a green card or a Social Security number to register your child. However, you must have proof of address. Your child must live in the city before you can register.
Starting in kindergarten, your child is eligible to attend a school based on your home address. The city is divided into 32 school districts, and most districts are divided into several dozen individual school zones. (Three districts, District 1 on the Lower East Side, District 7 in the South Bronx, and District 23 in the East New York section of Brooklyn, have no school zones; children may apply to any school in these districts.)
To find the school for which your child is zoned, type your address into the elementary search bar on the InsideSchools website or call the City of New York at 311 or (212) NEW-YORK.
If your zoned neighborhood school is satisfactory, you can usually relax. Your child is guaranteed a seat except in unusual circumstances. There are a few zoned schools that are so overcrowded that they cannot admit every child who lives in the zone; in these cases, a few children may be assigned to schools nearby.
Most children attend their zoned schools. But if your neighborhood school is unsatisfactory, or if you want your child to have a crack at the dozens of alternative schools or specialized programs that accept children from outside their immediate neighborhoods, or simply to visit several schools before deciding, you should start your search the fall before your child enters school. Most schools offer tours in the fall and winter, and you should fill out an application in January.
Apply to kindergarten
The Department of Education has centralized kindergarten enrollment through an online application system called Kindergarten Connect. This form, which allows you to apply to up to 12 schools, gives the impression that there is more school choice than, in fact, is available. Nothing can stop you from putting a very popular school on your list but don’t get your hopes up. Nonetheless, there are many options beyond your zoned neighborhood school.
The deadline for applying to kindergarten is typically in January. Your child will be assigned a seat in April; if he isn’t assigned to your first choice, he will automatically be placed on a waitlist at all the schools you preferred. To register, bring your child, proof of residence (a lease or electric bill), your child’s birth certificate, and immunization records.
If you move to the city after the application process is complete, you may register directly at your zoned neighborhood school. You may also contact other schools that interest you directly; it’s hit or miss, but some very popular schools have seats open up in later summer, early fall, or even in the winter.
A word about waitlists: If you did not apply to a school you like, you may still apply after the deadline and get on a waitlist. Some seats open up in September and October when, for example, a family moves. Schools receive budgets according to how many children are enrolled on Octob 31, so the staff is eager to fill any empty seats. Make sure your favorite school knows you still want a seat.
For more information and the timeline, see the DOE's website or call (718) 935-2009, ext. 3, to speak to a representative about kindergarten admissions.