Applications for pre-kindergarten for all children born in 2012 are due March 9. The city says it will guarantee a seat for all 4-year-olds but it doesn't guarantee where! Many of the most popular zoned schools in Brooklyn have room only for children who live in the zone. We've compiled a district by district list of our best bets for schools and programs that may have seats, based on last year's acceptances.
Remember: It’s always a good idea to visit yourself. When it comes to your child, you’re the expert.
Need more information about districts? Click on our district maps on the homepage.
District 13 (Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Vinegar Hill)
In the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant, PS 3, a school noted for its dedication to the arts, has five pre-kindergartens and did not fill last year. It also has a great outdoor play area and a garden. Over in the DUMBO–Vinegar Hill area, PS 307 has some great perks, including a STEM magnet grant and a Mandarin Chinese teacher. It's a good option for families from Brooklyn Heights where the crowded local school no longer offers pre-k. Nearby in DUMBO, a pre-k center is opening in the new 19 Dock Street building, with 72 seats. Consider PS 133, a lottery school which is offering Spanish dual language in pre-k for the first time. It's also open to residents of District 15.
District 14 (Williamsburg and Bushwick)
Many small neighborhood schools in District 14 have expanded pre-k offerings and are worth a look. PS 120 has a robust arts program—it used to be a magnet school for the arts—and well-established pre-k classrooms. PS 157 strikes a balance between play and reading, writing and math, according to a parent. PS 196 is a friendly school with a whole room dedicated to blocks. “We try to make school fun,” an assistant principal told us. Small, safe PS 319 serves only little ones, pre-k through 1st grade, so teachers have honed their expertise in early childhood education. PS 380 John Wayne is a good choice for families looking for an organized and supportive atmosphere where no children fall through the cracks, including those with special needs. Our reviewer raves about "sweet and cheery" PS 84, which had room for out-of-zone families last year, as did diverse, well-run PS 132.
District 15 (Park Slope, Boerum Hill and Red Hook)
District 15 covers many neighborhoods but only a few public schools have pre-k slots available. We found two that are good bets, especially if you live nearby. In Red Hook, PS 15 has a dual language—Spanish-English—class in pre-k, a rarity for this age group. Boerum Hill parents praise the pre-k program at PS 38, a spacious building with large, airy classrooms and entire rooms for block and LEGO play. As for early childhood centers, Hanover Place, in downtown Brooklyn, has an excellent reputation for attracting a wide variety of families, said a parent who spoke highly of its caring staff. Another option is the pre-k center inside the PS 118 Maurice Sendak Community School building, called The Little Brooklyn Pre-K Center. We loved the progressive, discovery-based Pre-k center at Bishop Ford.
District 16 (Bedford-Stuyvesant)
PS 21, one of the highest performing schools in District 16, had seats available last year, as did PS 40, another promising choice. Most teachers recommend the school and there are two classes for 4-year-olds. Tiny Young Scholars’ Academy for Discovery and Exploration PS 636 is merging with popular Brighter Choice, which is opening a Spanish-English dual language program in 2016. Our reviewers like the pre-k at PS 309, which has dress-up, blocks, and water and sand tables.
District 17 (Prospect Heights, Crown Heights and East Flatbush)
In Prospect Heights, the pre-k classrooms at PS 138, a relatively high-performing school in District 17, have dramatic play corners, academics and experienced teachers. At PS 241, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students are housed in an early childhood mini-building, behind a renovated playground. Some of their 72 seats were still open this year. PS 221 in Crown Heights has three pre-k classrooms and an edible garden program indoors and out. PS 375, in Crown Heights, has a new principal (as of 2014), who has already made improvements. This could be a good choice for local parents.
District 18 (Canarsie and Flatbush)
District 18 includes the largely Caribbean neighborhoods of Canarsie and Flatbush. Only a handful of public schools had openings for pre-k after accommodating zoned applicants. PS 233 might be a good bet, with some of the highest teacher satisfaction ratings in the district. Our advice for District 18: Tour the schools and early education centers to see programs firsthand.
District 19 (East New York and Cypress Hills)
In District 19, under the longtime leadership of Constance Hahn, PS 108 in Cypress Hills is a large, safe school offering 108 pre-k seats. The Department of Education has picked PS 158 Warwick to partner with respected Grand Street Settlement to raise attendance and academics. The atmosphere is positive, safe and orderly according to school surveys. Teachers give the principal high marks.
District 20 (Bay Ridge, Borough Park and Dyker Heights)
Southern Brooklyn's District 20 boasts many great neighborhood schools, but there is severe overcrowding. To help alleviate overcrowding, the DOE has opened pre-k centers and many had empty seats last year, including: Pre-K center @ 7301 15th Avenue and Pre-K Center @ 7415 Fort Hamilton Parkway.
District 21 (Sheepshead Bay, Coney Island and Flatlands)
Our pick in southern Brooklyn’s District 21 is diverse, safe PS 212, which had extra space last year according to the DOE directory. PS 216, with its "edible school yard," had room for pre-k students in the district last year.
District 22 (Flatbush, Ditmas Park and Mill Basin)
Schools vary greatly from one end of the district to another in District 22. The northernmost schools tend to fill with zoned students. Several schools have expanded in the southern areas and you can try getting on a waitlist. One safe and well-organized school that took pre-kindergartners in the district last year is PS 236. PS 361 is adding more play-based learning in the pre-k classes. For low-income families, Friends of Crown Heights is an established program with several sites and they’re answering their phones if you want to learn more.
District 23 (Ocean Hill and Brownsville)
We like Riverdale Avenue Community School in tiny, unzoned District 23. The principal was educated at well-respected Bank Street College. Our reviewer found lively pre-kindergartens with art, hatching chicks, writing, block-building and fun-to-read books. Brooklyn Landmark Elementary School offers a bright, welcoming environment for children in the Ocean Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. Academic activities, such as learning about countries and states, seemed like lofty—if somewhat inappropriate—curriculum for children so young, but there was also a block corner for experimentation with weight, shapes and gravity.
District 32 (Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant)
Bushwick United Head Start has a website filled with photos of children pouring over subway maps, out on field trips, singing to guitar music, and building with blocks and Lincoln Logs among other hands-on activities. This program has accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), a worldwide organization that works toward ensuring high standards in early childhood education programs. PS 145 had seats last year. Teachers like the principal and report the school is safe, according to school surveys.
Looking for more information? The DOE has a phone number that parents can call for more info: Pre-K for All Outreach Team at 212-637-8000.