This is my report on the Public PreK Information Session
There is a session Wednesday March 4 at 6:30 at Brooklyn Tech HS. All sessions will cover similar material but it is a good forum to get your questions answered.
The directories and applications for Public PreK will be available on Friday, March 6 at your local Elementary School, online and at the District Enrollment Offices. The DOE is holding information sessions all over the city for the next 2 weeks. All the sessions will give the same info. Thank you to Kim Cobb and her great crew for really trying to make this process better and for giving props to the parents who worked so hard over the year to fix the system. After you read this and go to an info session and pour over your directory on Friday, if you have questions, the best way to get them answered is to write: ES_Enrollment@schools.nyc.gov While you are at it, say hi to Michael, who will probably be answering your question. You can call 212 374-4948 but it will take much longer. Remember, there are a lot of you and not a lot of them.
I went to the first information session last night and here are the main things that are different from last year.
You can apply for the PreK lottery online.
They have tried to make the application more user friendly.
You can apply to more schools.
There is a new column in the Directory that tells you how many families put each school as 1st choice last year to give you an idea of your chances (it doesn't tell you how many are in-zone families, or how many siblings were accepted) correction: it lists the number of families that applied for the school in round one (no matter what choice that they placed it as) as well as the number of seats in the preK program.
None of the paperwork is going to Pa. this year.
If your child turns 4 in the calendar year 2009 (their 4 year birthday is Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 2009) and you live in NYC, your child is eligible for Public PreK in Sept. 2009. This doesn't mean that there are enough seats to go around.
This is NOT a first come first served process. You have a little time to weigh your choices. The application deadline is April 3. All applications are treated the same whether they are returned March 7 or April 2.
1. You need to get your hands on a Directory. You can pick one up on Friday March 6 at your local PS, find it online or at a DOE office. The application is included in the Directory or online. The Directory includes programs at local Public Schools. These are the schools that you try for in the lottery. It also includes a list of CBO's (Community Based Organizations) You need to go to those programs individually and talk to them about their individual application processes. They are not included in the lottery.
2. You need to know what school zone and District that you live in. The zones are your immediate neighborhood and the District is the larger area. The zones have weird shapes and the school that is closest may not always be your zoned school. It has nothing to do with your zip code. You can find that out by calling 311 and telling the operator your exact street address. (This is easy and fast to do)
3. This process is a lottery, but there are priorities. If you have an older child attending the school you get first priority. To make things complicated (and fair) there is priority within the sibling group (first zoned sibs, then sibs with no zone or no preK at their zoned school, then out of zone in district, etc.) If you are in the zone you get second priority. If you are living outside the zone but inside the District you get third priority. If you live outside the District you have fourth priority. Essentially, if you want the priority you need to place that choice first. Because of the new Kindergarten pre-application process, children who will be attending K in fall 09 will be technically considered sibs in a school. There is a special place to list them on the application because they are not currently in the school.
You can list as many choices as you like, but the likelihood of getting a spot if you live outside the zone of a popular school is small. Keep in mind that PM half day classes are often the least sought after spots even in popular schools. The column in the directory that shows how many families placed a school as a choice and how many actual seats it has will be very telling in making your decision.
4. The application deadline is April 3. It seems like a really good idea to do the online application. They have done a lot to make it user friendly and to help you to avoid mistakes that might be made filling out the paper app. When you send it online they immediately send an email receipt and you can receive the result the week of May 18 as an email and a paper letter. If you want to make changes to your online app. after you have sent it you can log on again, change the info and resubmit it before the deadline. The last one you send is the one that counts. You can list multiple programs in the same school as different choices (eg. "AM" program is one choice, "Full time" is a second choice and "PM" could be a third choice). If you decide to fill out the paper application BE VERY NEAT. NO ABBREVIATIONS IN THE ADDRESS. Double check your code numbers. Mail it in the envelop provided (don't use any fancy envelops or return receipt or Fed Ex). Make copies of your application before you send it. You must wait for your receipt about 3 weeks. The placement decisions will arrive the week of May 18. When you receive your placement bring your child and 2 proofs of address, child's immunization record and Birth Certificate to register at the school according to the instructions you will receive. There will be no waiting lists, but there will be a second round if there are unfilled seats. Placement in a PreK program does not guarantee placement in that school for Kindergarten.
Heh Parents of Twins! Siblings who are the same age (twins, step siblings, foster children etc.) are considered together. There is a special place on the application to indicate that two siblings are filling out two applications at the same time. If one gets a seat the other will get one too as long as there is another seat available. If one gets a seat and the other one doesn't let them know at Enrollment and they will do their best to help. I really believe that they will.