Families will have just one month to use the new online system to apply to kindergarten for 2014, according to admissions dates posted by the Department of Education today.  Parents of children born in 2009 may apply online, on the phone to a central DOE number or in person at an enrollment office between Jan. 13-Feb.14.  Not only is the online admissions process, called Kindergarten Connect, a change from previous years, but the application period is earlier and shorter. Last year families applied in person at schools between Jan. 22- March 1

The shift in timeline caught some elementary schools and parents off guard, according to DNAInfo which yesterday reported that many schools have scheduled tours and open houses in February and March, after applications are due. "If this hasn't been coordinated with school tours, how can you make an educated decision?" a parent said to DNAInfo.

Families may list up to 20 schools on the application and will be given one placement in April. All public schools will participate in the new admission system, even those that are unzoned. Admission priorities will remain the same as previous years, the DOE said, with zoned students given priority to their zoned school. 

The application process for Gifted and Talented programs is separate as are applications for charter schools. 

Students with special needs will use the same system; parents who don't speak English will need to register by phone or in person, rather than online. 

All children born in 2009 are guaranteed a place in kindergarten, but you must apply. If you miss the one month Kindergarten Connect application period, you will still be able to apply.  Parents who apply after the deadline, but before offers are mailed out in April, should call or visit an enrollment office for instructions, according to the DOE. Once offers are sent out, admissions will be handled locally by the schools. 

For more information, see the DOE's kindergarten admissions webpage, a Power Point presentation on the process [PDF], the introduction to next year's elementary school directories and our post on upcomng kindergarten dates.