Both of my Intro to Public School talks have sold out at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. I have scheduled a new talk there on Feb. 11 (the earliest we could get a date). Many people inquiring about tickets are families curious about prek, so I thought that I would give you the low down so that you could move ahead with confidence and still come to the talk in Feb. to learn (mostly) about what you have ahead of you for kindergarten.
Public school tours are starting to heat up now. Even though there are no dates for the UPK application deadlines yet. Your job between now and probably Feb. is to take a look at your zoned school and others to see what you would like to rank. Of the 70k UPK seats available in the city, there are about 25k in public schools. The rest are in private programs and stand alone early childhood centers. Many parents try to position themselves at UPK for kindergarten but I think that it is often wasted effort and emotion. Consider UPK as a single year gift that the city has given you. No strings attached for kindergarten.
Your placement in a public prek is a match between your hopes and dreams and the City's geographic priorities. You all live in a district that is a BIG catchment, encompassing many neighborhoods and you also live in a little tiny zone within that district that is often just a few blocks. You need to find out what zone you live in. The geographic priorities to prek generally are:
In-zone families (you only have one in-zone school)
Out of zone and out of district siblings
Other people who live outside the zone but in the district (that could be you)
Other people who live outside of zone and also outside the district (that could also be you)
Do you think that they are going to get past all those sibs and zoned people to place you in those couple of seats in a popular school? They are not.
There will be schools that you 'haven't heard of' that may be worthy programs that do have seats - sometimes lots of seats. Go for it. You may not stay for k, or you may fall in love with them. Risk it. You have 12 spots on your application. Put a couple of 'Hail Mary's' in there as well as some good solid schools that have lots of seats available and possibly also an early childhood center or two and you should get lucky.
Because there are so few seats in public schools (many, many fewer than there will be at kindergarten), the seats in popular schools almost always go to in zone sibs and a few zoned students. Parents wrongly assume that if you can snag a seat in a school for prek that you are in that school for k. That is not true. You have to apply again - and again in-zone sibs and in-zone families and sometimes out of zone sibs will trump you to get the kindergarten seats.
If you are attending a lovely school for prek that you do not want to attend for k - you are NOT tied to that school. If you are not attending a school (your zoned school or any other) that you REALLY want for k, you may still have a good shot at them - even if you haven't attended for prek. It is really a one year deal, people.*
*the exceptions are charter and unzoned programs. Because they don't have zones. Their priorities for k are sibs and then prek kids, then everybody else. So if you can snag a spot there, you could stay (even though you will still have to apply again).
Clear as mud? I normally do 30 min. phone consults ($100) for families who are trying to come up with a good list for prek depending on their address (both to tour and to apply). Fill out my contact form and my assistant can set up a time for us to talk.