Your real estate wishlist changes when you have a child and are looking for an apartment in New York City. Things like location, views, and takeout options may still matter to you, but these preferences are usually superseded by a need to find a place within a specific public school zone.
That's right—admittance at most public elementary schools in NYC largely depends on neighborhood zones. There are some exceptions to this rule, of course—not every public school child goes to their zoned school, and some students go to charter or private schools, or so-called "choice" schools. (Need to get up to speed on the elementary school application process? Check out our elementary school guide for NYC renters and owners—recently updated for 2022.)
[Editor's note: A previous version of this story ran in August 2021. We are presenting it again with updated information for August 2022.]
So how do you find out for sure what the zoned elementary school is for an apartment you are considering? Here's what you should—and should not do, because we at Brick Underground have heard the heartbreaking tale of friends who plunked down a lot of money for a condo and were thrilled about their new school two blocks away, only to find they were not zoned for that school—they got some bad intel—but for another one that was seven blocks away.
Read on so you don't make a similar mistake.
Don't eyeball a school zone
Don't just guess or take someone's word for it, even someone who lives the building you are thinking of moving to or in the neighborhood. They might be relying on outdated or incorrect information, especially if their children graduated a long time ago. Things happen, zones get redrawn. The building may have been zoned for the school in the past, but is now outside the boundary.
Don't eyeball it. Just because a school is across the street or next door from a building does not mean it is your zoned school.
Don't take a broker’s word for it, either, whether the information is in a listing or comes up in conversation. (Brokers can be misinformed or going by outdated information.)
Do your research and call the school to confirm
Here's the best way to find your elementary school zone and avoid some expensive heartbreak:
Go online to the New York City Department of Education website.
Click on “Find a School” in the upper right hand corner of the site.
Type in your address, leaving out your apartment number, and make sure the boxes for “show zoned school” and the correct school year are checked. The first listing is your zoned school.
To be absolutely sure, call the school and ask for the parent coordinator to confirm that your address is zoned for the school.
You can also call 311 or you can use InsideSchools's search to find the zoned school for an address, as well as other schools in the district that your child may be able to attend.
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