We plan to move to NYC from South America this summer. Can we still register our 5-year-old in kindergarten?
Yes, of course. New York City has a kindergarten place for every child who applies, as long as you can present proof of residence in NYC and of your child's age. Most districts have zoned elementary schools. You may register at your zoned school once school opens in September. If you already know your address, call 311, or from outside New York, 212-new york to find your zoned school. You may also enter your address in the search box on the Department of Education's website to find the zoned school for that address. There may be other school options but you are guaranteed a place in your zoned school or one that is nearby, in case the neighborhood school is overcrowded.
To smooth your way, you should do research now about the schools and your options. A good start is Clara Hemphill’s book, [New York City’s Best Public Schools, 3rd edition,](http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nbsbssi027/192-7151495-0691568?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=new%20york%20city%27s%20best%20public%20elementary%20schools&sprefix=New+York+City%27s+best+public%2Caps%2C350&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Anew%20york%20city%27s%20best%20public%20elementary%20schools)(http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nbsbssi027/192-7151495-0691568?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=new%20york%20city%27s%20best%20public%20elementary%20schools&sprefix=New+York+City%27s+best+public%2Caps%2C350&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Anew%20york%20city%27s%20best%20public%20elementary%20schools)Teachers’ College Press. It gives a good overview of city education, neighborhoods, different types of schools and educational approaches. Next, see the Insideschools page New to NYC? for additional information, addresses of the enrollment offices and other tips. Finally, use the district map on the Insideschools homepage to see a list of the schools in the area where you might live.
Insideschools has a description of each school including zoned schools and, in some districts, options that are open to the whole district. You have not said whether your child speaks English, but if not, or if her English is spotty, be sure to seek schools that offer good instruction in English for ELL’s (English Language Learners). Some schools have bilingual programs and some offer dual language programs. In bilingual classrooms, students are taught in Spanish and make a gradual transition to English. Dual language programs have instruction in Spanish (and other languages) and English on a rolling basis, alternating on different days or time of day, depending on the school. Of course, all the schools offer English as a Second Language instruction to newcomers. It is tricky but wise to try to do the real estate hunt along with the school hunt – at least to narrow down your choice of neighberhoods.
If you think your child may qualify for a gifted and talented program, there is summer testing for newcomers but you may arrive too late. Summer testing is taking place the week of July 8. Your child will have another opportunity to apply for the 1st grade -- watch for notices in October to sign up for testing.
Another task: assemble the documents you need to register. These include your daughter’s birth certificate (or passport), her immunization record, any other school records you have, and proofs of residence in NYC.
These strategies are useful to all newcomers, no matter what the grade. The only difference is that above the age of 10 (middle and high schoolers) go to borough enrollment offices for school placements instead of going directly to the school. By the end of the summer, special enrollment centers will be open to accommodate all the newcomers that have not yet been placed.
NOTE to newcomers in 8th and 9th grades: your child is eligible to take the late summer administration of the specialized high school admissions test (SHSAT). You must register for the test between July 15 and August 1 at an enrollment office. Bring your child with you, and don’t forget to ask for the SHSAT handbook that has sample tests and other information you need.
Welcome to NYC and good luck for a great school year.