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City Creates Single Application for All Universal Pre-K Seats

By Amy Zimmer | February 5, 2015 2:26pm
 Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced changes to the city's pre-K admissions, Feb. 5, 2015.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced changes to the city's pre-K admissions, Feb. 5, 2015.
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DNAinfo/Amy Zimmer

SOUTH BRONX — Applying for the city's free pre-K programs is about to get easier.

Starting next month, families will be able to fill out a single application to apply to all of the public school and community-based early education center pre-K programs, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Thursday.

Parents of 4-year-olds will be able to rank up to 12 choices on the new unified application, as opposed to filling out separate applications for every community-based organization they would like to attend. (Charter schools will still require a separate application.)

"We're making it easier. We've heard what parents have had to say," Fariña said at The Bronx's Sunshine Learning Center at 416 Willis Ave. Thursday morning.

By streamlining the application process, the city will be able to notify families sooner about where their children are accepted. Last year, the pre-Ks at community-based organizations all had different admissions timelines and procedures, so some families had to wait until late summer before getting offers, DOE officials said.

This year, parents will apply for pre-K between March 16 and April 24, and the DOE anticipates sending out offers on May 29. Families will then be able to pre-register at schools from June 1 to 19.

More than 53,000 4-year-olds enrolled in free pre-K programs across the city this school year, exceeding the de Blasio administration's target for its ambitious expansion. 

But some programs didn't announce their seats until the spring, or even summer — which meant that parents learned about new programs even after the official enrollment period ended and had to apply separately.

That will likely occur again this year, as the program continues its expansion. Even though school officials said this winter's pre-K directory will include a "significant chunk of new seats" representing the "large majority" of programs, there still might be some late additions as the city works toward its targets.

The goal is to have about 73,000 pre-K seats by September, enough to offer one to every eligible 4-year-old, school officials said. 

Families will be able to apply online at www.nyc.gov/prek, over the phone by calling 311 or in person at one of the DOE's 12 Family Welcome Centers.

For children applying to public school pre-K programs, the admissions priorities will remain the same as they have in the past, with siblings of those already at a school getting first preference.

The DOE worked with community-based centers to develop a set of priorities for admissions, which include giving priority to, in order:
- current students already enrolled in an early education center's 3-year-olds class
- siblings of current students enrolled there
- students of families who receive free or subsidized services from the organization operating the center
- children speaking a language other than English that the center specializes in serving
- all other students