Schools often dicatate where New Yorkers choose to rent and buy their apartments.
Yet for first-time parents (and even those selecting high schools) as well as famlies relocating to the city, navigating the PreK-12th-grade admissions process here is a daunting task --- at best. At worst, it seems like the lousiest part-time job ever.
The problem is not precisely that New York parents have too few options. They just may not fully realize them due to a variety of reasons ranging from accelerated rezoning that even 311 can't keep up with, to a lengthy--and occasionally arduous--admissions process, to diverse gifted and talented programs, to new private schools opening up throughout New York City.
After successfully navigating the kindergarten admissions process for her own children, Aronow found herself contacted repeatedly by other parents seeking her advice. A former psychotherapist, she was so effective in helping those families through the rigors of applications and deadlines that she decided to start her own consulting business, now a decade strong, specializing public and private school admissions.
Among the information Aronow sleuths out and dispenses: Insight into the varied public and private school options in each school district in Manhattan as well as private schools in the rest of New York City (she has toured most of them); the pros and cons of attending a school that's co-ed or single-gender, progressive vs traditional, public vs private; the detailed criteria that go into the process of matching students to public schools; and the testing requirements for both public and private schools.
How it works
While some parents may only need a little help finding the right resources to facilitate the application process, others hire Aronow to provide everything--total hand-holding from the first application form to the first day of school. She also provides parents with a useful subscription e-mail service that reports valuable updates about zone and policy changes as well as reminders of important 'must-adhere-to' deadlines.
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Aronow offers two different methods of consulting, in either group workshop sessions for the general public ($35-$50 for early registration via her website for a 2-hour+ sessions), or as individual consulting sessions either in person or by phone (staring at $135/30 minutes).
She also regularly conducts group workshops for city businesses that employ busy parents and specialized sessions that focus on specific issues faced by transfer students and/or those relocating to NYC.
We interviewed Aronow and asked her to explain some of the challenges parents face when beginning their child’s school admittance process:
- Evolving School Zones. For decades, Manhattan public school zones remained unchanged. These days, they are evolving at an accelerated rate due to overcrowding. While parents may have moved to a certain address years ago because doing so would have gained their child access to a specific school zone, current zones are apt to change before your toddler is ready for kindergarten. “School zones have been changing every year for the last five years,” explains Aronow. “They have been adding new schools and readjusting zone lines to accommodate the city’s changing demographics. We’ve got [zone] changes on the books through 2015, with new schools opening up."
- Updated Rule and Policy Changes. Governing everything from zone line changes to revised deadlines, most every admissions-related change a parent would want to know is likely included in the revised "Chancellor Regulations A-101”. These rules and policy updates for public school admission are clearly defined on the nyc.gov website, provided you know what you’re looking for and how to cross reference the information. At press time, the last policy changes for the 2012-13 academic year --- updated this past December --- are available for download on a PDF document. It is 16-pages long, though --- another good reason for third-party assistance.
- Overcrowding. While you may think that your address is the only criterion to determine where your child goes to public school, you’re wrong. Due to overcrowding, your child may get "wait-listed" for his or her zoned school. According to Aronow, "Even if you're living in a zone that remains unchanged, there still may not be enough room initially at the school in that zone to enroll all new students. Historically, most if not all children get into their zoned schools shortly after the start of school in September, but you may deal with a long, anxious summer until your child gets off that wait list."
- Public or Private? Even if a private school education is desired, parents should also know the admission deadlines for public schools in their zone in the event that their child does not gain acceptance to the private school of their choice. The varied public school options--from zoned schools and district or citywide schools, to gifted and talented and dual-language program schools and charter schools--are all worth exploring. “Any of the public elementary schools in Manhattan can [in the future] become ‘must go to’ schools. For instance, schools on the Upper West Side that parents once avoided 25 years ago are now highly desirable because of the dedication by dynamic school administrators, teachers, and parents." Of interest are those that offer dual-language programs in English-Spanish, English-French, and English-Hebrew. By contrast, for-profit private schools like Avenues, which can be difficult to get into because of the excellent test scores and grade averages needed, may also offer a good solution for parents seeking bilingual choices.
- Timelines. Aronow advises parents registering children in kindergarten to begin thinking seriously about admission about 15 months before enrollment. Basically, you should get the ball rolling by your child’s fourth birthday.
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