The city will open registration for 3K and Pre-K programs on February 24th, the last pieces of the public school system’s programming for the 2021-2022 school year.

3K programs will now be available in Districts 1, 12, 14, and 29 this coming school year, in addition to the existing programs in Districts 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 16, 19, 23, 27, 31, and 32. While families who live in these districts have priority for seats, the registration is open to all families in the city . The deadline for 3K applications is April 30th.

The city’s universal Pre-K program for four-year-olds, hailed as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature accomplishment of his administration, will accept applications through April 7th.

In New York City, school is not mandatory until age six, but educational experts say early childhood education in public schools helps students improve academic and social skills, while offering free childcare in a city where daycare can cost an average of $11,648 to $16,250 a year.

New York City is one of the few American municipalities to offer some free 3K and universal pre-K in the public school system, according to a report by progressive think tank the Century Foundation: “Only nine states and the District of Columbia have any kind of pre-K program with universal eligibility for three-year-olds.”

In 2019, there were about 70,000 students enrolled in free pre-K across the city, compared to only 19,000 students in New York City who were enrolled in 2013.

But enrollment in 3K, pre-K and kindergarten programs this year have fallen steeply during the pandemic in New York City, similar to patterns seen across the country. The city’s Department of Education announced last week that 3K enrollment was down 8% and pre-K enrollment down 13%, and kindergarten enrollment dropped 9%.

Parents can apply to the programs online at MySchools.nyc or over the phone at 718-935-2009. There are also still 3K and pre-K seats for this school year, the DOE said -- families should call 718-935-2009 or email ES_Enrollment@schools.nyc.gov to learn about any available options in their community.