New York City provides educational opportunities for children starting with Pre-Kindergarten at age 4 through high school. Get help with school registration and enrollment below.
In New York City, children may attend prekindergarten (Pre-K) starting in September of the calendar year when they turn 4 if there are available seats in a Pre-K program. Children are entitled to begin kindergarten in a public school in September of the calendar year when they turn 5. Students may stay in school until June of the year they turn 21 or until they get a high school diploma, whichever comes first.
School-age students seeking admission to a New York City public school must be placed within five school days of their application.
Generally, children are eligible to begin attending Pre-K in September of the year they turn four. Some community school districts also offer a limited number of Pre-K classes starting in September for children turning three within the calendar year (3K). Some Pre-K programs are operated by the Department of Education at selected public schools or at stand-alone sites throughout the city; other preschool programs are operated by private community-based organizations or charter schools. The application process typically begins in March, the deadline is in April, and placement offers are distributed in June. Admission is subject to available seats. Pre-K students do not automatically matriculate to Kindergarten at the same school, as the enrollment process for Kindergarten is separate. Information about Pre-K programs can be found here.
Children in elementary school or middle school usually enroll at their “home zone school” which is based on the child’s address. In some districts, middle school students have a choice of schools. They must fill out an application form and rank their choices, or apply directly to the school, depending on the school’s requirements. The deadline for middle school applications is usually in mid-December. Families will receive decision letters in May.
To find your home zone elementary or middle school, call 311 or search by typing in your address on the Department of Education’s website. More information about elementary and middle schools can be found here.
In New York City there is an application process for enrollment in high school. Eighth and ninth grade students who have met all promotional requirements and are residents of New York City can participate in the high school application process. During the Main Round, students choose up to 12 high schools and list them in order of preference. Applications are usually due in early December and results are sent out in February or March. If a student is not matched to one of his/her 12 choices during the Main Round, or is unhappy with the match then the student may enter the Supplementary Round, but by doing so will give up the previous match. Students who want to go to specialized schools may also have to take separate entrance exams or audition. Students who have missed the regular application process should go to the Family Welcome Center in the borough where they live. More information can be found here.
Schools may not ask for proof of citizenship or immigration status. If a child does not have all the documents listed above, the school must admit the student temporarily and must help the family find the required documents.
If you have trouble registering your child for school, go to your district’s Family Welcome Center (FWC). The FWC can help you if there is no zoned school for your address, if your zoned school is full, or if your zoned school turns you away for reasons that you think are not justified. A directory of FWCs is available here.
The information in this document has been prepared by The Legal Aid Society for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon any information without retaining professional legal counsel.
Last Updated: 18 September 2019
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