coronavirus · NYC Kindergarten · NYC School Admissions · NYC Schools · School Waitlists

NYC Parents Wonder, “If We Leave Now, Will Our Kids Be Allowed To Return To Their Public Schools Later?”

Since March of 2020, I have been forced to repeatedly apologize to my readers for not being able to personally answer all of your questions about what is happening (and what will happen) with New York City schools, but there are simply too many for me to keep up with.

There is quite a bit of repetition in your queries, however, with numerous families wanting to know the same thing, which is why I’ve recently devoted entire columns to parental concerns like:

Who Will Teach My Children?, Remote or Hybrid Instruction? and Is the Department of Education Deliberately Undermining Some Schools?

This week, I’m highlighting an inquiry I’ve been hearing more and more of as September draws nearer:

We have a girl starting in Kindergarten this year at a Manhattan public school. I just selected the ‘online only’ option through the DOE. Question: we are considering leaving the city, would it be possible to save her spot at the school for the following year if we end up leaving?

On July 15, I reached out to Jamall Ledesma of the Elementary School Admissions Team to ask:

Families are asking, if they withdraw their child from an elementary school, either General Education or Gifted & Talented, will they be able to return within 365 days, as in the past? 

What about if they stay out longer than that?  Is the process different for zoned schools, unzoned schools, dual language, and/or G&T programs? What is the process for withdrawing, and then returning to a school?

He promptly replied:

I am not sure of the answer. I have forwarded to my leadership. When I receive an answer I will let you know.

On July 20, I followed up. He repeated:

I am still waiting for clarification.

On August 4, I wrote:

Parents are very anxious to know if they’ll be allowed to return to their school within the traditional 365 day window. Any word on that?

The same day I received a response from a different member of the Elementary School Admissions Team:

The right to return was updated several years ago to reflect the following language in Chancellor’s Regulation A-101: A child returning to the NYC school district within the academic year of discharge from a DOE school has the right, but not the obligation, to return to their prior school. All such placements are contingent upon the DOE school’s available seats.

My most recent question:

What does the academic year consist of? Does it start in September or July, and does it end in June or July? What are the definitions of an academic year?

As of Monday, August 10, I have yet to hear back.

So I am going to dive in and attempt to parse these answers on my own, with the understanding that, as I always tell families during my Getting Into NYC Kindergarten and Getting Into NYC High School workshops: We are talking about New York City public schools. Anything I say is true today may not necessarily be true tomorrow. 

Especially in the middle of a pandemic.

The key phrase to focus on is: All such placements are contingent upon the DOE school’s available seats.

If we are talking about your zoned public school, I am comfortable telling families that if you withdraw your child from Kindergarten and return to the same home for 1st grade, odds are good you will be welcomed back. Class size goes up from Kindergarten to 1st grade, and with the addition of natural — not to mention pandemic inspired — attrition there should be room.

If we’re talking about an out of zone school, an unzoned school, or a Gifted & Talented program, the answer gets trickier.

Traditionally, in a non-pandemic year, school rolls close on or around October 31. This means that, after that date, the schools can no longer receive money for a newly enrolled child. Some schools will continue to accept new students. Many won’t, since there’s no profit in it.

What this means is that, if you withdraw your child prior to October 31, and the school is a highly in demand one, then they will likely easily fill your spot from the waitlist. When you return the following year, you might be told that there is no more room available for your child. (Though, as stated above, class size does go up from Kindergarten to 1st grade, but they may have already filled those seats before you requested to come back with new G&T qualifiers, etc….)

If you withdraw after October 31, then that’s a different story. The school may opt not to fill your seat, since they won’t get any extra funding for it. If you return in say, April or May, your child should be able to pick up where they left off. If you wait until the following September, though, or even later, your right of return depends on who else applied for that grade level, and what I hear back about when the school year officially begins and ends.

Stay tuned: As soon as I know more, you’ll know more!

What do you think?

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