The official kindergarten application period doesn't begin until January, but, if your child turns five in 2014, now is the time to begin considering your options and filling in your calendar with important dates.
You must sign up for the gifted and talented test this week and some schools are already hosting and scheduling open houses and tours for parents of prospective students. Also, the Education Department is making changes to the kindergarten admissions system and age requirements. We round up the important dates and changes after the jump.
GIFTED & TALENTED
General registration for kindergarten begins in January, but, if you'd like your child to take the gifted and talented test, the deadline to enroll is this Friday, November 8. Visit the Education Department's website to read the gifted and talented handbook, fill out the request for testing (RFT) form and see the testing schedule.
Children who score in the 90th percentile or higher on the gifted and talented test qualify for districtwide programs and children who score in the 97th percentiile and above are eligible for a spot in the citywide gifted and talented programs. (Note that citywide seats are high in demand and usually only go to children who score in the 99th percentile). For more info on gifted and talented, see our primer on G & T and check out our recent blog posts on the topic.
We recommend that parents visit a school for a tour before applying or enrolling. Some schools offer weekly tours, starting this month; others are waiting until 2014 to offer open houses or tours.
The DOE website has a list of some schools' tours, open houses and contact information. You can also look up your neighborhood school and other options on Insideschools or individual school websites and contact the desired school for information. If there is no tour scheduled, check with the parent coordinator to see if she will show you around. Many are happy to do so.
Be sure to watch our short video explaining what to look for in an elementary school before your visit.
ONLINE KINDERGARTEN REGISTRATION
When kindergarten enrollment opens in January, the city will inaugurate a new, centralized application system. (The DOE has not yet released the exact date that registration will begin. Last year it was January 22.)
Instead of going to each school personally to apply, parents may register online via the DOE's new digital system called Kindergarten Connect. They can also apply over the phone by calling 311, or in person at a borough enrollment office. The DOE is working with community education councils to host districtwide information sessions to familiarize parents with Kindergarten Connect before it goes live. Contact your local CEC for information if you'd like to attend a session. We'll posted any events we know of on our calendar. (District 3has a session on November 20.)
While some questions remain about the centralized admissions system, the bottom line is that, if you live in a district with zoned schools, you still have priority at your local zoned school. All districts in the city are zoned except for three choice districts: District 1 (Lower East Side), District 7 (South Bronx) and District 23 (East New York). Many zoned schools do have room for students outside of the zone and most districts offer at least a few "unzoned" schools. Charter schools have a different application process and timeline and are not part of Kindergarten Connect. Some charters will allow you to fill out a common application online which is valid for applying to several schools; others have their own application.
Clara Hemphill answered some questions on our blog about the online admissions system, including when to present your child's paperwork (when you enroll) and what to do if you don't speak English (call 311 to register).
LATE 2009 BIRTHDAY? YOU MAY BE ABLE TO POSTPONE KINDERGARTEN
If your child was born in 2009 but you don't feel he is ready for kindergarten yet, you're in luck. The Panel for Education Policy voted last week to approve a change in Chancellor's Regulation 101 (the rule governing city public schools enrollment) that allows the superintendent and principal to have the final say in deciding whether a child who turns six during the calendar year must enter 1st grade or whether kindergarten - or a different grade - is more appropriate.
In the past, the city enforced a blanket policy that all children born in the same year must enter kindergarten together. This change to the regulations offers some wiggle-room for children with late birthdays. Parents will be able to petition their principal and provide medical, or other documentation, making the case for placement in a different grade.