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, often referred to as your "zoned" school. 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 of Manhattan, 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 your zoned school, type your address into the search bar at the top of this page. You may also call the City of New York at 311 or (212) NEW-YORK.
If your zoned school is satisfactory, then ususually you can relax. Your child is guaranteed a seat except in unusual circumstances such as in the event that the school is so overcrowded that it cannot admit every child who lives in its zone. In this case, a few children may be assigned to nearby schools. If you move within the city after your child is enrolled in a school, she may continue to attend her old school through its highest grade or transfer to an elementary school in her new neighborhood.
If your child is entering an elementary grade other than kindergarten, you may register directly at your zoned school. If you live in a district that doesn't have zoned schools or you want your child to attend a school other than your zoned option, you will need to go to a Family Welcome Center to enroll your child.
Tip: Before you head to the Family Welcome center, do some research on InsideSchools to identify schools that both you like and your child is eligible to attend. Also, contact each school you're interested in to see if they have space.
Apply to kindergarten
The Department of Education has a centralized kindergarten enrollment system. It allows you to apply to up to 12 schools and 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 options beyond your zoned school.
About 60 percent of elementary school children attend their zoned option. However, if your zoned school is unsatisfactory, you live in a district that does not have zoned schools (Districts 1, 7 and 23), you're interested in alternative schools or specialized programs that accept children from outside their immediate neighborhoods or you simply want to visit several schools before deciding, you should start your search the fall before your child enters school. Many schools offer tours in the fall and winter.
There are three ways you can apply to kindergarten: online, by calling 718-935-2009 or at a Family Welcome Center.
The deadline for applying to kindergarten is typically in January. You will find out where your child is assigned by April. If he isn’t placed in your first choice, he will automatically be put on a waitlist at all the schools you ranked higher than the one he got. 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 completed, you may register directly at your zoned neighborhood school. You may also contact other schools that interest you but there's no guarantee the school will have space, especially the very popular ones, though sometimes they have seats open up in late summer, early fall, or even in the winter.
A word about waitlists: If there's a school that you like, but didn't apply to it before the January deadline, you may apply after the application deadline and be placed on its 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 October 31, so the staff is eager to fill any empty seats. Make sure your preferred school knows you still want a seat.
For more information and the timeline, see the DOE's website or call (718) 935-2009 to speak to a representative about kindergarten admissions.