Who may attend
Any child who turns 4 before Dec. 31 is entitled to attend pre-kindergarten that year; that is, a child with a fall birthday may start school in September when he is still 3. Most children attend pre-kindergarten 6 hours and 20 minutes a day, 180 days a year—the same schedule as older children.
The city has a limited number of seats for 3-year-olds. In the summer of 2017, the city added programs called "3-K for All" in school districts 7 (South Bronx) and 23 (Brownsville, East New York, Ocean Hill). The school day and year are the same as for pre-k. Any child who turns 4 before Dec. 31 is entitled to apply. Children do not have to be toilet trained. The teacher-student ratio is two adults to 15 children.
What programs are available?
The city doesn’t have room in its neighborhood schools for all the city’s 4-year-olds. To create more seats, it contracts with child-care centers, private nursery schools, religious schools and community centers. In addition, the city has established free-standing “pre-k centers,” which children attend for just one year. While some ordinary neighborhood schools have pre-kindergarten, the bulk of seats are in these other locations. Your child is guaranteed a seat in one of these settings. There is no guarantee you will get your first choice, or that your assignment will be close to home. No transportation is provided (except for children with special needs and those in temporary housing).
The city offers free directories of all the pre-kindergarten programs, updated annually. You may also find a school near your home by searching our website.
How to apply to pre-k
You may apply online through the Department of Education website starting in January; in person at a Family Welcome Center; or by telephone: (718) 935-2067. Application deadlines change from year to year, but generally they are in early March. You’ll learn where your child is accepted in May. If you miss the first deadline, you may apply in the “second round” in May. If you move to the city after the application process is complete, go directly to a Family Welcome Center, or telephone the number above. If you don’t get your top choice, your child will automatically be placed on a waitlist at your preferred programs and the school will contact you if a seat opens up. You may also call a school and ask to be placed on a waitlist. Be polite, persistent and patient--seats often open up.
To register, you will need to go to the school in person with your child, the child’s birth certificate or passport, immunization records, and proof of residence. You do not need a green card or a social security number but you do need a document with your address on it, such as a lease or a recent gas and electric bill.