Any child who is between the age of five and 21 and who has yet not received a high school diploma is entitled to a free public education in New York City. This classification also includes foreigners who are residents in New York City. A child in New York City usually enrolls in public school in the September of the year he or she turns five.
Like in many other cities of the world, the eligibility to attend a particular public school in New York City is generally determined by the zone in which your residence is located. If you plan to send your children to public school during your stay in New York City you might want to choose the location of your residence according to your choice of a particular public school. In order to find out which public schools are located within the zone of your residence you can call the city’s information hotline 311 or the central Office of Student Enrollment Planning and Operations at 212 374 2363. In addition to these zoned public schools, there are some ‘unzoned’ schools in New York City that accept children from all over the city. Similarly charter schools, gifted and talented programs and arts schools also accept children from all over the city and not only from within the zone where they are located.
Actually it is advisable to do your research about the city’s public schools well in advance of your move to the New York City. Some sources even advise researching these schools as early as a year in advance. Several websites like (http://insideschools.org/) and (http://www.greatschools.net) have detailed information and reviews about the constantly evolving network of New York City public schools. Moreover many public schools offer school tours to the parents of prospective students.
The school year in New York City starts in September and once you have determined the public school that you want your children to attend you have to look out for the registration dates which are posted at the school. These dates are usually put up several months in advance depending on the school. All public schools in New York City have specific admission criteria and this process usually depends on the school and the grade level.
The Department of Education stipulates that anyone who is seeking public school admission for elementary or middle school education in New York City has to register at his or her zoned school. If you are unaware of your zoned school or your residence is not within a school zone then you can contact the borough enrollment office (http://schools.nyc.gov/ChoicesEnrollment/NewStudents/Borough+Enrollment+Offices.htm) in your borough of residence. High School registration is solely handled by the borough enrolment office in your borough of residence.
In order to register for public school admission in New York City you are required to supply the proof of age of a child (a passport or birth certificate), the immunization record for your child, proof of New York City residence and the latest report cards or transcripts if applicable.
For proof of New York City residence you have to supply any two of the below mentioned documents:
- A residential utility bill (gas or electric) which is issued in your name
- A document or letter on the letterhead from a federal, state or local government agency like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), City Housing Authority, Human Resources Administration (HRA), the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS)
- An original lease agreement, deed, or mortgage statement for your residence
- A current property tax bill for your residence in New York City
- A water bill for your residence in New York City
- Official payroll documentation from your employer such as a form submitted for tax withholding purposes or payroll receipt. A simple letter from your employer will not suffice.
These documents should be current and dated within 60 days of the registration.
Your child’s immunization records are also required for registration in a public school and if you do not have an immunization record for your child, the school usually gives you a two week grace period to obtain these records or verify that you have started your child on the first round of shots. Detailed information on the type of shots and the doses required by the NYC Department of Health is available on the enrolment page of http://www.insideschools.org.
Public Schools in New York City generally impart instruction in English though most schools also have ESL programs (English as a Second Language) which are designed to teach non-English speaking students English and some public schools also offer dual language programs which place native English speakers and speakers of another language (Spanish, Chinese, French, Korean, Russian, Haitian Creole) together in one classroom with the goal that all the students develop proficiency, if not fluency, in both languages
Some of the highly rated public schools in New York City according to current surveys are:
- The Anderson School (http://www.greatschools.net/modperl/browse_school/ny/8186)
- The Stuyvesant High School(http://www.stuy.edu/about/)
- Harlem Success Academy Charter School (http://www.harlemsuccess.org/)
- East Side Middle School (http://www.esmsnyc.org/home.aspx)