The public school system in New York City is huge, and can be daunting. That's especially so for first-time parents enrolling a child in kindergarten, and for families who are enrolling their kids in a NYC public school for the first time.
New York City has many different elementary school options: zoned and non-zoned schools, charter schools, Gifted and Talented programs, and dual language and magnet programs.
Be prepared to go shopping — school shopping.
1. Get the Basics: Is NYC kindergarten admission done on a first come, first served basis?
First of all, Brooklyn's public kindergartens are part of elementary schools, not stand-alone institutions.
Secondly, enrollment in kindergarten in New York (and therefore Brooklyn) public schools does NOT operate on a first-come, first-served basis. If the family submits an application within the application period, then, says the NYC Department of Education (DOE), "Placement offers are made based on standardized admissions priorities, not based on when you submit your application."
2. Be Aware: To get a place in kindergarten in a public school, the family must submit an application and get a placement offer
All Brooklyn public schools have to follow New York City guidelines for who is eligible, and who gets priority for admissions. So while it’s fine to contact your local school, be aware that (unlike in other cities or suburbs), in Brooklyn and NYC in general families must submit an application for kindergarten admission.
3. Explore the Options: Learn about your local elementary school, but look beyondSchools can differ dramatically. First things first: do you know what school you are zoned for? If not, use the Department of Ed's "School Search" tool to find your zoned school, or call 311. (See Resources for Parents.)
Second, consider other options. If you're not sure where to start, the NYC Board of Education publishes a directory in several languages.(Go to the NYC DOE directory.
4. Be Prompt: Know when to apply to kindergarten in a Brooklyn public schools
Families of any child turning 5 in a given year should apply that year. So, if your child's birthday is in November, apply in the January of that same year. If your child turns 5 on January 2, apply for kindergarten that same year, too.
- Be prompt. Start in January for September admissions.
- The application period runs from January to early March.
5. Get Ready: What to bring when filling out an application
- Bring your child's birth certificate or passport, and
- two documents which provide proof of residence.
Don’t have these documents? For other acceptable documents proving residence, see the “registration information" link.
6. Understand the system: Who gets priority?
Zoned schools will give priority to students who live in that zone.
But that’s not the only criteria. In order of importance, the Board of Ed lists the following priorities:
- Zoned students with a sibling who will be in grades K-5 at the school in 2012-2013;
- All other zoned students;
- Students residing in the school’s district but outside the school’s zone, with a sibling who will be in grades K-5 at the school in 2012-2013;
- Students residing outside of the school’s district with a sibling who will be in grades K-5 at the school in 2012-2013;
- All other students residing in the school’s district but outside the school’s zone;
- All other students.
7. Plan ahead: Thinking about elementary school, too.Ideally, a child will enroll in the kindergarten of the elementary school they will attend, to minimize disruption. But families move, and sometimes a different elementary school will be more appealing or appropriate than the one where a child goes to kindergarten. Still, for many public school families, the question is not just what kindergarten the child will go to, but what elementary school, too. So in doing research, families should look not only at the kindergarten class, but the entire elementary school.
8. Make Time: Yes, it's complicated!The single best piece of advice is this: Carve out some time to research your child's options, and to learn the ropes of this complicated city education system.
The NYC Department of Education tries to make things accessible, with phone lines, websites, online directories, information sheets and calendars, all multilingual.
Education, as they say, requires an investment of time. That investment starts in finding the right kindergarten for a child.