Kindergarten admissions for the 2022-2023 school year opened this week for New York City public schools roughly on schedule, despite disruptions caused by the pandemic.
But for kids waiting to apply to middle or high schools, the Department of Education still has not issued any application deadlines or guidance, leaving tens of thousands of families in limbo.
Mayor Bill de Blasio shook up the school application process last year when he announced that the DOE would eliminate using all selective screening criteria like attendance, grades or state test scores for middle schools during the 2021-2022 academic year. The city has yet to clarify if this is to be a permanent move.
De Blasio also announced the DOE would eliminate district and geographic priority for high schools altogether within two years. The city’s new school admissions handbook said “no high school applicant will have priority to attend a school based on where they live” starting in the 2022-2023 academic year.
Last year, middle and high school applications were released in early December but the DOE did not respond to requests Friday for updates.
In light of the lack of official guidance, Sarah Pekow of Brooklyn said her son’s elementary school administration is trying to keep parents updated about middle school admissions, but she’s anxious about missing crucial information with details released piecemeal.
“I'm just sort of a little worried about missing an email or something, and all of a sudden everything is due and we just didn't know about it,” Pekow said.
Carlos Encinias, an Astoria resident, said his son’s middle school applications are further complicated by uncertainty over the portfolios or auditions typically required at the performing arts schools his son is interested in. One school’s administration told him they’re not even sure if they can hold auditions this year.
“It's just a little frustrating because you want to try to make plans, and they're not really articulating” the process, Encinias said.
A spokesperson for the DOE previously told Gothamist/WNYC that the city is currently “reevaluating” the use of geographic priority in school admissions based on feedback from the public.
Meanwhile, the clock ticks down to a new mayoral administration that will inherit de Blasio’s changes to the school system, which has thrown the already-convoluted application process into further upheaval.
Mayor-elect Eric Adams has also indicated that he would “limit geographic preferences for school selection” and that “ZIP codes” shouldn’t determine a student’s future.
Another Brooklyn parent of an 8th grader, who didn’t want to be named because she is president of her child’s PTA, said when her older child applied for high school three years ago, they were prepared to navigate the notoriously complicated admissions process because it had been in place for years.
This year, no one knows what schools they can even apply for — not even school administrators themselves, the parent said.
“The high school principals are in such a tough bind, because they don't even know what screens they are going to be allowed to use, because the DOE has given them no guidance. They've given the parents no guidance,” the parent said.
“So it's very frustrating for parents and kids," she said. "How can you make your lists for what schools you want to apply to when you don't even know what schools you'll be allowed to apply to?”