SCHOOL TALK: Kids Can Get Lost in Admissions Hubbub

The other day I was updating the school website and mistakenly typed “2012-2013 school year.” Fortunately, I realized my error, and fixed it. The holidays are over; the ball has dropped; we are just dipping our toes into 2013, and already, the 2013-2014 school year is looming.

“Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future,” as the Steve Miller song goes.

Some of the fifth grade parents who were turning in their children’s middle school ap­plications last month asked me when the next deadline would be. I reminded them that they wouldn’t hear the outcome of those carefully considered choices until the end of May. “For now, just enjoy fifth grade,” I advised.

It is a perennial problem for all of us —staying in the present, trying not to worry about the future, while still needing to plan for the next year and not miss any deadlines.

Just a few short months since the last child on last year’s kindergarten waitlist was placed, Downtown schools are about to begin that admissions process all over again.

Parents of children who will turn five this year must locate their child’s birth certificate, contact pediatricians for immunization records, and make sure to have two recent and appropriate proofs of address. While the timeline for applying for kindergarten is the same throughout the city, every school handles the process a little differently, so you should go on the website of your zoned school and see what you have to do and when you have to do it.

(If you want to learn more about the school, sign up for a tour; it is a great opportunity to be inside the building and maybe a classroom, and get a feel for the place where your child will spend six-and-a-half hours a day for the next six years.)

This is also the time of year when pre-kindergarten children who have been receiving special education services from providers around the city will begin to be assessed for their kindergarten needs in a process called “Turning 5.”

Consisting of a parent interview, as well as assessments and observations of the child, this process eventually results in an IEP (individualized education plan), which will guide your zoned school in providing the support your child needs.
It is a daunting task, navigating the city’s special education system, and in recent years, getting a child into his or her zoned elementary school has become challenging as well.

Before becoming frantic, though, please consider this: In the midst of the applications, the tours, the information sessions and the deadlines, all of which can be stressful for families, are for your children. Doesn’t it feel sometimes that they are forgotten in these processes that wouldn’t exist but for them?

At work, when I am speaking to parents about kindergarten options, pre-K programs, private school applications, G&T testing, or other school issues, the children themselves are fiddling around in the office, drawing on scrap paper, eyeing the holiday chocolates on the counter, knocking over a basket of crayons. Half ignoring them, I offer a picture book, as I focus on relaying the minutiae of the different processes.

But the kids are the reason parents are worrying about kindergarten admissions and wait lists, as they try to do everything right for their children, a task we know is impossible.

Last month I walked with a group of fifth graders to the library on North End Avenue to drop off coats the school had collected in our annual coat drive. There were six 10-year olds and four heavy plastic bags of coats—I mean, heavy! The kids experimented with the best way to carry, hoist and drag them. Along the way, we took several breaks, during which they sat on the soft, stuffed bags and chatted. I mostly listened.

They were so nice to each other! They were funny and enjoying themselves and dreaming of the day that will come this spring when they are able to go out to lunch together, without grown-ups.

No one needs to be reminded that childhood is fleeting. One moment, your children are cuddling on the couch with you; then they are texting to say they’ve arrived at school; and before you know it, you are becoming acquainted with the common app for college admissions.

For a New Year’s resolution, let’s get the applications in on time, but remember what is really important, your children—who they are, what they love, what they want to become, and how we can help them get there.

Connie Schraft is the P.S. 89 parent coordinator. For questions about Down­town schools, write