Kindergarten (K): children turning 5 in 2015

Key advice: When choosing a kindergarten program, don’t forget to think ahead. Consider both the quality of the kindergarten program itself and whether it helps channel your child into a quality elementary school program that will meet your child’s needs as he or she grows.
Important Dates
First day of school is September 9, 2015
Gifted & Talented Request for Testing (RFT) deadline (to be announced).
General enrollment for Kindergarten starts: (to be announced)
General enrollment for Kindergarten ends: (to be announced)*
Charter school enrollment period ends: Various deadlines, April 1 for many*
K general enrollment placement offers distributed: (to be announced)
K general enrollment pre-registration starts: (to be announced)

*Late applications can always be submitted but your child may be placed on a waiting list for your preferred school and enrolled in another. Kindergarten is a mandatory grade.
How to enroll in public Kindergarten: 3 Steps
STEP 1: GET INFORMED
There is one application for kindergarten in local public schools and schools known as “magnet schools” (these offer a school-wide curriculum designed around a specific theme and receive special funding from NYC). If you also want to apply to Gifted and Talented (G&T) programs, you need to request testing before the general application deadline. More information on that separate process is described below.

Charter schools operate separately from the Department of Education and develop their own unique academic programs of learning, but they must meet performance goals to remain open. They have a separate admissions process and their own admission priorities (e.g., priority for children in a charter school’s community school district). Some charter schools are highly sought after, feature innovative programming, and have high testing and graduation rates. Critics say that some charter schools are of variable quality or use policies that manipulate measures of success. You need to contact charter schools directly for information and often to apply for enrollment. The primary web source for charter school information is NYC Charter Schools

Most children attend their “zoned” district school. This is the school in the district where you live where your child has the highest priority for admission. You can find out which school is your zoned school by calling 311 or by entering your address on an online interactive map at: NYC.GOV School Search.

Three districts in NYC have no designated zoned schools: District 1 (Lower East Side, Manhattan), District 7 (South Bronx), and District 23 (Brownsville, Brooklyn). These districts are called “Choice Districts.” There is a special publication available for families who live in those districts available at your local Family Welcome Center.

You have options beyond your local district school. You might also want to apply to public schools outside your district, for example, schools closer to where you work or which have programs that your zoned school lacks (like a Gifted and Talented program or a dual language program). The Kindergarten Directory for your borough offers information on all the public kindergarten programs at local and magnet schools, their admissions priorities (the school’s priority order for admitting students) and it lists some of the criteria you might want to consider such as school size, school performance, types of programs currently available, whether it shares space with other schools, and the results of parent surveys about the school’s learning environment. There are other factors the Directory does not tell you about and which you might want to find out through a call, visit, or through conversations with current school families such as atmosphere, what the facilities are like, extra-curricular activities, family involvement, and safety. You can visit any public elementary school or borough Family Welcome Center to pick up a Kindergarten Directory, but it is also available on-line (this version that is usually more current than the printed version). The Department of Education website has the most current information on available programs at NYC.GOV Kindergarten.

You can also call schools to see if they offer tours or visit schools to ask questions in person.

It is important to consider whether the kindergarten you choose is part of an overall elementary school program that will suit your child’s needs as he or she grows. Transferring schools later can be difficult. Elementary schools that continue on to middle school (6th, 7th or 8th grades) give enrolled children the option of staying at that school with priority over new applicants.

Once you have chosen schools, you will rank them on the kindergarten application in order of preference. If you are not offered placement at the school you ranked highest on your application, you will automatically be placed on the waitlist for all schools you ranked higher than the school where your child got an offer.

Since kindergarten is mandatory, children are guaranteed a spot somewhere in New York City even if they register after the deadline.

STEP 2: APPLY

After you decide where you want to apply for kindergarten, you need to fill out and submit the kindergarten application.

When filling out the kindergarten application you will need to know the following information:
  • For the child: full name, date of birth, address
  • For the parents or guardians: names, phone numbers, email addresses (if applying online).
  • The kindergarten programs you are applying to, in order of preference
  • If your child has a sibling attending one of the programs that you are going to list on your application, or who is applying at the same time, you will also need their name, date of birth and if applicable current school, grade, and student ID number.
The application for district and magnet schools is available in Spanish and other languages. You can fill it out and submit it three ways:

Online: The application is available at NYC.GOV Kindergarten You will need to create an account to submit an application online. The site has Spanish and other language options.

Over the phone: 718-935-2067 (8am – 6pm, Monday – Friday) or call 311. Interpretation services are available.

In person: At a Family Welcome Center (8am – 3pm, Monday – Friday). Interpretation services are available. For a list of Family Welcome Centers, click here.

To apply to a charter school, you need to contact that school directly for information and a paper application. Your may be able to submit an application through their own website or through the NYC Charter School Center website (in English, Spanish and other languages): NYC Charter Schools

STEP 3: REGISTER

After your child has been accepted to a program they will be asked to pre-register. At that stage you will need to provide documentation:

One (1) proof of your child’s date of birth: either a passport or a birth certificate
Two (2) proofs of parent/guardian’s address: According to the Department of Education you can use:
  • Utility bill (gas or electric) for their residence issued by Con Edison, National Grid (formerly Keyspan), or the Long Island Power Authority (for the Rockaways); must be dated within the past 60 days
  • Water bill for the residence; must be dated within the past 90 days
  • Original lease agreement, deed, or mortgage statement for the residence
  • Current property tax bill for the residence
  • Official payroll document from an employer (example: payroll receipt); must be dated within the past 60 days
  • Document or letter from a federal, state, or local government agency indicating the resident’s name and address (example: document from Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the City Housing Authority, the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS); must be dated within the past 60 days
If you do not have the required documentation, you should still go to enroll your child. They will be admitted to school provisionally while a solution is worked out (for example, if you are neither the leaseholder nor owner of your residence, you will be asked to submit a Residency Affidavit).

Some charter schools have additional eligibility criteria. You will be notified and asked to bring the required additional documentation at the time of pre-registration.

If you encounter problems enrolling your child you should contact a Family Welcome Center, the school directly, a social worker, or anyone else you feel can help you resolve the issue. Remember, a free public education is both mandatory and the right of every school-aged (ages 5 and up) child living in NYC. All school-aged children must be enrolled in school.

Remember that by law, students may not be required or asked to present documentation of immigration status nor can they be denied admission to school based on immigration status or failure to present documentation about immigration status. Also, references to the immigration status of a child or parent cannot appear on any school forms or records.

Key facts
Who can do it: Any child who turns 5 in 2015 and who lives in NYC
Is it mandatory: Yes
Is it free: Yes, programs offered by the NYC Department of Education (district schools and charter schools).
If you missed the enrollment period: You can still submit an application as described above. By law, all eligible children receive placement in a NYC school.
Are there special programs for academically advanced children: Yes
Are there bilingual programs or programs for English language learners: Yes
Are there special programs or help for disabled students or other special needs: Yes
Important future dates to prepare for now
First Grade Gifted and Talented enrollment

Related topics that might help you.

Other Internet resources
New York City Department of Education kindergarten enrollment page

More information about Gifted & Talented admissions.

Information on free afterschool and summer programs from the “Inside Schools” website (sponsored by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School): Inside Schools Free Programs