By Michèle De Meglio
A new admissions policy for pre-K and kindergarten programs aims to give all schoolchildren a fair shot at obtaining a quality education. The city Department of Education rolled out the changes in response to complaints that admissions standards vary by school and can leave many kids without access to the most coveted pre-K programs. “Our pre-kindergarten admissions process varies widely from district to district, too often adding to the understandable anxiety of sending a child to school for the first time,” schools Chancellor Joel Klein said. “We need to replace the numerous rules and timelines with a single, simple, fair process,” he continued. “Every family will receive the same information about their pre-Kindergarten options and will have the same opportunity to choose a program that’s right for their child. We owe it to families to make their transition to school as friendly as possible.” The new policy will go into effect this year and provide parents with applications and a directory of pre-K programs in early March. Applications will be due at the end of March, and acceptance letters will be sent out in May. Under the policy, admissions preference will be given to students applying to a program at their zoned school, students applying to a school within their district, as well as siblings of students already enrolled at a school. Laurie Windsor recently went through the pre-K and kindergarten admissions process for her children and welcomed the idea of providing parents with a directory of pre-K programs. “I think it’s great that they would put all the information together and get it out to parents,” she Windsor, whose three kids all attend P.S. 229 in Bath Beach. But Windsor, the new president of District 20’s Community Education Council, expressed concern about the DOE’s central system taking on another task by overseeing the new pre-K admissions system. “That is a tremendous task,” she said. “I could understand that some of the schools might be happy to have some of that taken from them because it’s less work and less responsibilities, but we’ll have to see how it goes. It’s kind of scary when you’re giving up local control.” Even under a new system, Windsor fears some children will still be unable to get a seat in the pre-K program of their choice. “I could just see where it can become a process that gets so bogged down in all the red tape and going through the proper channels and children falling between the cracks,” she said. “Hopefully that doesn’t happen but when it’s such a huge task like this, you’re a little nervous.” Children who turn four years old by December 31, 2008, are eligible to apply for pre-K this year. To remain posted on when applications will be released, visit the DOE’s website, schools.nyc.gov.