The city’s two pre-kindergarten admissions processes will become one this year.
Parents will apply to pre-K programs in district schools and in community organizations using one application with a single deadline this year, Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Thursday. Officials said the new process would be simpler for parents, whom officials urged to apply to district and community-based pre-K programs separately last year.
The change comes as the city prepares to add another 17,000 full-day pre-K seats this fall, and reflects the city’s desire to create a pre-K system that feels like a unified whole. (Most of the pre-K seats are available in community-based organizations, not district schools, and those organizations have more leeway around teacher pay and certification requirements and last year had later application deadlines.)
The new application process resembles the Department of Education’s kindergarten application process, with the addition of community organizations. Parents will pick and rank up to 12 programs, and are matched with their highest-ranked choice where they qualify for a seat. Parents will remain on a waitlist for any programs they ranked higher than the one they are matched with, but will have a match by early June.
“Parents and teachers and principals will have an early start on [knowing] the kids that are going into their programs,” Fariña said. “I think parents are going to be much happier.”
The new, single-match system will decrease some of the uncertainty pre-K programs faced at the start of this school year. District pre-K programs had a single application and an early deadline, while parents applying to community based pre-K programs had to apply to each one separately.
Parents who had applied for a district-school pre-K spot were also encouraged to apply for seats at community programs. Often, community programs didn’t know which of their accepted students would be attending and which would be going elsewhere, leading to some last-minute scrambling.
This year, those programs “are going to have more time to focus on instruction, preparing the classroom, hiring teachers, getting ready for the new year, when last year they were working with us to work through our enrollment process well into the summer,” said Josh Wallack, the Department of Education’s chief strategy officer.
This year’s application process will begin March 16, and parents should begin receiving pre-K enrollment decisions by early June. Last year, the deadline for applying for a community-based pre-K spot wasn’t until June 26.
Charter schools offering pre-K will not take part in the matching process and will operate their own enrollment processes for pre-K, officials said Thursday.
The single-match system, familiar to parents who have gone through kindergarten or high school admissions, raises a new question: What determines whether a four-year-old is matched to their top programs?
The (fairly complicated) priority structure for district pre-K programs will remain the same. Community-based programs will give added weight to applications from students in their three-year-old programs, siblings of current students, students who receive some social services from the organization running the pre-K program, and students who speak a language that the center specializes in, in that order.