Elementary Schools

In NYC, elementary schools typically enroll children in Kindergarten through 5th grade; some schools also offer a Pre-Kindergarten program. The birthday cutoff for school registration is December 31. Therefore, students are eligible to apply for Kindergarten during the year of they turn 5 years old and Pre-K the year they turn 4 years old.

Public Kindergarten in NYC is offered for a full school day (typically 8:40 a.m.-2:50 p.m.). Kindergarten attendance is optional in NYC, however, if desired, children of NYC residents are guaranteed enrollment in a local public school beginning in Kindergarten. Children must enroll in school by the First Grade.

Like other communities across the country, children are typically assigned to schools based on their home address. These schools, known as “zoned schools,” serve all children in a designated geographical catchment area. You can find your zoned school on the NYC Department of Education's website or by contacting NYC's Information Line, 311.

There are more than 700 public elementary schools, including 140 K-8 programs in NYC. During the elementary school years, the majority of families are comfortable with their children attending their zoned neighborhood school. Some families however seek other options and have their children evaluated for public gifted and talented programs, identify bi-lingual or dual language programs, or consider charter schools in their home neighborhood or elsewhere.

Evaluating Elementary School For Your Child

As you consider the variety of education options in NYC, it is important that you visit your local zoned school to get to know the school where your child is guaranteed a seat. Be reflective as you consider what is most important to you. No school will have every quality you want, but if you know what matters most to you, you will find an educational option where your child can thrive.

  • How does your child’s nursery school teacher or Director describe your child in a classroom setting? What are their suggestions for schools or classrooms?
  • Does your child prefer activities regulated by the teacher? Or the students?
  • Does she enjoy structure in her day? Does he work best when the expectations are clearly outlined and defined? Does your child enjoy open-ended activities? Does she enjoy being challenged?
  • Does he prefer to work alone? Does she thrive when working in collaborative group projects?
  • Could she benefit from a classroom where different learning styles and abilities are mixed in one classroom? Would she thrive in a setting with students of similar abilities?
  • Are you comfortable with the educational philosophy, pedagogy, and curriculum offered by the school? What is the school’s philosophy on homework?
  • Are the classrooms diverse and comprised of students with different learning styles and abilities? Are children tracked by ability? Where would your child thrive in a setting with students of similar abilities or a mixed group? Are you more comfortable within homogeneous or heterogeneous groupings?
  • Would your child feel most comfortable in a small school setting? A larger K-8th grade school? Or just elementary school students? How do the younger students interact with the older students in the school?
  • What are the facilities like and how important are they to you? Is the outdoor space within the school, or must students walk a distance to a park?
  • Can you and your child handle commuting by bus or train to school? Or is a school within walking distance preferred?
  • Are there opportunities for your child to explore sports, arts, drama, and music? Are there science labs? Is there a library in the classroom and/or one serving the whole school?
  • Does the school take advantage of the public library and other community resources?
  • How involved are parents in the school? In what kinds of activities are they engaged?