Registration is open for NYC’s public pre-K, 3-K programs — if you can get through

It’s time to apply for the city’s free pre-K and expanding 3-K programs — that is, if the education department’s application portal is working. 

As the admissions process officially kicked off Wednesday, parents who flocked to the MySchools portal were greeted with messages telling them the site was down. Others who called the pre-K hotline were met with a two-hour wait time, according to parents who voiced frustration on Twitter.

“We’re currently making updates to our school directories, and the site is unavailable during this brief process,” read a message parents received from MySchools when they tried to log on the morning applications launched. “Please come back again soon.”

Families will have plenty of time to submit applications, where they can rank up to 12 programs — and when they apply should have no bearing on their lottery number, school officials said.

Those with children born in 2016 — meaning they’ll turn 4 by Dec. 31, 2020 — can apply to free pre-K programs through Mar. 16. Families with children born in 2017 — meaning they’ll turn 3 in the 2020 calendar year — have until Apr. 24 to apply for 3-K. 

Admissions are not first-come, first served, according to a tweet from the education department’s Twitter account.

“Families will not receive any advantage by applying earlier or later, and you can edit your application at any point during the application period,” education department officials wrote, and they directed parents to a hotline.

Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to announce an expansion of free 3-K at his State of the City address on Thursday to include District 1, serving Chinatown, the East Village and Lower East Side, as well as Greenpoint and Williamsburg’s District 14. 

These areas had not been announced previously as being part of the city’s rollout for next year, the mayor said Wednesday. 

This fall, the 3-K program is poised to serve 26,000 children across five boroughs in 16 of the city’s 32 districts. The figure includes all 3-year-olds served citywide in Head Start and child care programs, which had been operating under the Administration for Children’s Services but are now under the education department’s purview to create a single early childhood system for families.

“3–K and Pre-K for All are unlocking the potential of every child and creating more opportunity for families,” de Blasio said in a statement. 

But some families take issue with calling it pre-K for All, and are concerned about the expansion of 3-K when there’s a looming shortage of nearly 2,000 seats for preschoolers with disabilities

“If my child was [typical] he would probably already be in a school,” said Juanita Lopez, a mother of a 3-year-old with autism who has struggled to find a seat for her son. “Because he has special needs it feels like there are so many hoops you have to jump through to get any kind of assistance.”

3-K and pre-K enrollment specialists — experts about programs offered in each neighborhood — should be available to help families throughout the process, officials said. For now, though, parents may have to contend with the long wait times. 

Here are the neighborhoods that are expected to have 3-K in September. (The districts with asterisks will be new this fall.)

> District 1 (Chinatown, East Village, Lower East Side)*

> District 4 (East Harlem)

> District 5 (Harlem)

> District 6 (Washington Heights and Inwood)

>  District 7 (South Bronx) and District 23 (Brownsville)

> District 8 (Country Club, Pelham Bay, Throgs Neck, Castle Hill, Soundview, Hunts Point)

> District 9 (Grand Concourse, Highbridge, Morrisania)

> District 12 (Central Bronx)*

> District 14 (Greenpoint, Williamsburg)*

> District 16 (Bedford-Stuyvesant)

> District 19 (East New York)

> District 23 (Brownsville)

> District 27 (Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Rockaways)

> District 29 (Cambria Heights, Hollis, Laurelton, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens, St. Albans)*

>  District 31 (Staten Island)

> District 32 (Bushwick)

Alex Zimmerman contributed reporting.