How to figure out your zoned public elementary school when you are buying or renting in NYC
- The public elementary school across the street may not necessarily be your zoned school
- The best way to find your zoned school is by checking the NYC Department of Education website
- You should also call the school directly to be 100 percent sure it's zoned for your building's address
Your real estate wishlist changes when you have a child and are looking for an apartment in New York City. Things like views, amenities, and nearby takeout options may still matter to you, but these preferences are usually superseded by a need to find a place within a specific public school zone.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 public school—some students go to charter or private schools, or so-called "choice" schools. (If you 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 2022. We are presenting it again with updated information for August 2023.]
So how do you find out for sure what the zoned elementary school is for an apartment or brownstone you are considering? Here's what you should—and should not—do, because we at Brick Underground have heard a friend's heartbreaking tale of plunking down a lot of money for a condo with an amazing school two blocks away, only to find out they weren't 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 rely on guesswork or word-of-mouth
Why take a risk when so much is at stake? Avoid the following at all costs:
Don't just guess or eyeball the school. To reiterate the sucker-punch lesson from above, 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 someone's word for it, even someone who lives in 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 They might be relying on outdated or incorrect information, especially if their children graduated a long time ago.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 take a broker’s word for it, either, whether the information is in a listing or comes up in conversation. (Brokers, who are people after all, can be misinformed or relying on outdated information.)
Don't rely on listing sites. While StreetEasy and other websites include "zoned schools" in each listing, they usually come with a disclaimer along the lines of: "School attendance zone boundaries are not guaranteed to be accurate—they are provided by a third party and subject to change. Check with the applicable school district prior to making a decision based on these boundaries." Heed that advice.
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. The first listing is your zoned school, which is indicated with a blue dot.
To be absolutely sure, call the school and ask for the parent coordinator to confirm that your address is in fact zoned for the school.
You can also call 311 or 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. But once again, always check with the school directly just to be 100 percent sure.
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