MANHATTAN — The city is bringing the deadline forward for kindergarten applications.
For students starting kindergarten next September, applications will be due Feb. 14, Department of Education officials said in an email to parents on Tuesday.
In years past, the deadline was the first Friday in March.
The new deadline comes hand-in-hand with the DOE's overhaul of the admissions process through "Kindergarten Connect," which will allow parents to apply online or over the phone instead of in person.
Starting Jan. 13, families can fill out one application online, ranking up to 20 schools in order of preference, instead of having to travel from school to school, filling out paperwork at each location.
“This is a new process that will streamline the application process for families," DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield said. "The decision to move up the application deadline slightly will allow, for the first time, every student who applies to receive an offer at the same time.“
The DOE expects to send kindergarten placement offers in early April. Kindergarten is mandatory for all children who will turn 5 in 2014.
Other schools and programs have different dates for kindergarten admissions. Private schools, for instance, have a Jan. 17 deadline, with parents having to decide which school to attend by Feb. 14. For the gifted and talented programs at public schools, eligible students can apply by April 18, with notifications sent out the week of June 9.
Some elementary school leaders in upper Manhattan recently complained they hadn't been alerted to the DOE's new kindergarten deadline and had scheduled tours for prospective families for dates after the applications were due.
Most children attend their zoned school, which is determined by their home address. Priority for kindergarten admissions will be given to children in a school's zone, as well as students with siblings at a school and those who have attended pre-K at the school they're applying to, DOE officials said.
The online application process was piloted in 2012 in the Lower East Side’s District 1, the South Bronx's District 7 and Brownsville and East New York's District 23, which are all “choice districts,” where families can apply to any school in the district, regardless of where they live.
The pilot program found significantly more parents applying for kindergarten earlier in the year, DOE officials said.