First, Second, and Third Grades / 6, 7 and 8 year olds

Key advice: The early elementary school years are a good time to consider whether your child’s school is preparing them for the future. Do its programs match your child’s needs and interests? Does your child feel welcome at school? Is your child’s learning supported by the adults in the school? Does the school help families understand all the options available to a child (gifted and talented programs, additional academic supports, extracurricular activities, sufficient guidance counselors, wellness advice, and special ed options)? If not, find out what you can do to get the education you want for your child
Important Dates
First day of school: September 9, 2015
Gifted & Talented Request for Testing deadline (Pre-K - 2nd graders): To be announced
Charter school enrollment period: Various (but often April 1)
Gifted and Talented Request for Placement (3rd and 4th graders): To be announced
How to enroll in public school (elementary students new to NYC)
A child should be enrolled right away in his or her zoned district school. To find your zoned school you can visit a Family Welcome Center in person, call 311 or the Department of Education at 718-935-3500, or use the ‘School Search’ tool at the Department of Education website: NYC.GOV School Search

When speaking to someone either on the phone or in person, you can always ask for a translator if this would make the conversation easier.

If there is no space at your zoned school, your child will be placed on a waitlist and immediately assigned to a nearby school. If you live in one of the districts without a zoned school, you will be directed to the school closest to your home with available space. Going to a Family Welcome Center first is also a good idea if your child has received special education services previously and/or has an IEP from outside of New York City.

At your zoned/assigned school, you need the required documentation:
  • Child’s birth certificate or passport as proof of age
  • Immunization records
  • Latest report card/transcript (if available)
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP) and/or 504 Accommodation Plan (if applicable and available)
  • Required Proof of NYC Residence (any two of the following):
    • Utility bill (gas or electric) for the residence issued by National Grid (formerly Keyspan), Con Edison, 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), 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).

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.

How to change schools / find a school better suited to my child
Applying to a new school or program:
One option for your child is to apply to a non-zoned or “magnet” school that accepts applications from students throughout NYC. You can sometimes apply to district schools in other zones if they offer a program or services your current school lacks and if their policy permits the admission of students outside their zoned area (sometimes, students from outside the zone can be admitted if space permits, or be placed on a waiting list).

The most up-to-date information on schools and programs is available at the Department of Education website, which is periodically updated. You can search for schools by borough using the DOE search tool at NYC.GOV School Search and then go to individual school web pages for more information. You can also ask for guidance at a Family Welcome Center. You will need to contact your desired schools directly to find out their admissions policy regarding students outside their zone, if/when they have an open house or tours, and how to submit an application.

The (non-DOE) website “Inside Schools” offers a search tool that allows you to filter your search by program: Inside Schools.

Another option is to apply to a charter school. These 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 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.

The primary web source for charter school information is NYC Charter Schools

To apply to a charter school, you need to contact that school directly for information and for 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).

If you are interested in changing schools, early fall is a good time to review the individual school websites, contact the school, ask about open houses or tours, and learn their admission process.

Applying for a transfer due to hardship, safety concerns, or poor school performance:
Beyond transfer options which include re-applying to a new school or program, you can request a transfer to another public school if your child’s current assigned New York City public school presents one of the following documented hardships:
  • Distance from childcare or parent employment (students in K-5 only): if the distance between your child’s school and your place of employment or your childcare location creates a hardship. You must provide supporting documentation from your employer and/or childcare provider verifying the childcare hardship.
  • To attend the same school as a sibling (students in K-5 only): for a sibling to attend school where another sibling currently attends and will continue to attend in the following school year (siblings are brothers/sisters including stepbrothers, stepsisters, foster brothers, foster sisters who live in the same household as the applicant).
  • If your child has a severe medical issue that can be addressed by a change in school: You must provide documentation signed by a doctor on the medical provider’s letterhead stating the medical condition and the reason why the transfer is recommended.
  • If you feel that your child is unsafe at his or her current school: All safety transfer requests and supporting documentation must come from schools themselves. Families should not bring the documentation to the Family Welcome Centers. Schools must fax an occurrence report or other school documentation; a police report, docket number or court documentation, Safety Transfer Summary of Investigation form, or a Safety Transfer Intake form, as appropriate.
  • If your high school student’s commute is 75 minutes or greater, or otherwise inaccessible by public transportation.
Through the Public School Choice (PSC) program, students who attend an eligible lower-performing school can apply for transfer to a school with “In Good Standing” status as determined by the New York State Education Department (NYSED). Priority is given to students who are identified as low-performing and low income.
  • A list of schools whose students may be eligible to transfer via the PSC process is available here:
  • A list of information sessions on the PSC program is available at the DOE Public School Choice webpage (or click here for materials on the PSC program in Spanish).
Students enrolled at schools designated as “persistently dangerous” have the opportunity to request a transfer to a school that is not so designated. Schools are designated persistently dangerous if they have two successive years of serious incidents that meet or exceed criteria established by the NYSED. Eligible families will be mailed a notification letter in September.

Key facts
Is it mandatory: Yes
Is it free: Yes, programs offered by the NYC Department of Education (district schools and charter schools).
Are there special public programs for “Gifted & Talented” 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
Early Fall/Fall 2016 – If you are interested in changing schools next year, this fall is a good time to review the individual school websites, contact the school, ask about open houses or tours, and learn their admission process. Admissions deadlines for the 2017-18 academic year can start as early as the first few months of 2017.

Early fall is also the time to apply for Gifted and Talented (G&T) programs if your child is in pre-K through second grade.

Related topics that might help you.

Other Internet resources

New York City Department of Education elementary school 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