Ok, this can be very overwhelming, let me help you…
Before we start: American school grades and language versus Aussie schools Elementary school: Kindergarten – 5th grade (5yrs -10yrs) Middle school: 6th-8th grade (11-13yrs) High school: 9th – 12th grade (14-18yrs)
Early Childhood /Preschool Options Newborn - 3years You have many options from daycare, private pre school or a nanny. It all starts from 6 months old with baby classes for tummy time, gym play, music classes, usually lasting 45min per session. New York Public libraries offer free reading and baby sessions all over the city. NYPL
There are lots of programs for two and three year old kids that include a gentle "separation" where you gradually leave your child in the classroom whilst you sit outside the room for a couple of minutes...and eventually end up sitting in Starbucks ... or doing a Soul Cycle session if that's your thing ... Examples include 2-3 hour classes at NY Kids Club, Kidville,Appleseeds, Book Nook, Children's Museum of Manhattan, Equinox - 'for kids only' club ... and many more located all over NYC.
A useful guide for all things kids in the city is mommypoppins where you will find a long list of different childcare options in your neighborhood. Another good reference is Facebook mommy groups in your area like Upper West Side Moms; Upper East Side Moms or Downtown moms, Park Slope moms etc.
Most private schools also offer a 3's program that runs in line with the regular school year (i.e. starting in September.) Of course these programs tend to be a little more expensive and the application process can be a bit daunting including interviews with parents and child, a playdate type interview and references. You need to apply directly with the provider for most private school and nursery programs the day after Labor day for the following school year (usually the first Monday of September.)
Pre-K - 4 years old Legally, your child does not need to be in any school program (or start home-schooling) until the year your child turns 5. However, if your child is turning four in the calendar year then you will be eligible to apply for a free spot in the pre-k program run by New York City in select public schools in your area. Generally the pre-k day runs to the same timetable as regular kindergarten with classes commencing at 8:40am and running through 2:30pm or so, 5 days a week.
You should check out the different options available in your area at NYC Department of Education schools.nyc.gov and insideschools.org and by speaking to other parents about the quality of the programs as they can vary dramatically. Once you have found a program you think is a good fit for your little one, you apply for a spot via the regular public school application process at schools.nyc.gov which opens on February 5th for the 2018/19 school year. Please note that at the moment pre-k seats are limited and there is no guarantee your application will be successful.
Many private schools, daycare centers or nurseries also offer Pre-K programs which you will apply for directly with the school but you will pay for those programs.
Kindergarten - Grade 12 Note: your child needs to turn 5 any time during the calendar year (e.g. kids starting kindergarten in 2018 were born in 2013)
2018/19 school year runs from Sept 2018 - June 2019
Public School Applications - Nov 28 2017 - Jan 12 2018.
Offer Made - March or April and you can accept or deny the offer.
To attend a particular public school generally you need to be located in the relevant zone for that school. You can apply for up to 12 schools and you can apply to any public school in New York, but the city gives priority to people living in the school zone. This means you need to give a lot of thought as to where you buy or rent your apartment if you want your children to go to a specific school.
In most cases real estate agents will tell you which school district the apartment is zoned for but won't comment on the quality of the schools or their ratings. To get that information, including a "rating" out of ten for each school you can visit www.greatschools.org. If you are still not sure, As i mentioned above I would reach out to mum blogs or facebook groups like Aussie Mums and Dads in NYC and ask if anyone attends that school, how they like it etc.
Of course, you will likely pay higher rent for an apartment in a "better" school zone. And you should keep in mind that admission into any school requires proof of your address with a utility bill, rental agreement etc plus your child's birth certificate.
Other School Options Charter schools A charter school is an independently run public school granted greater flexibility in its operations, in return for greater accountability for performance. The "charter" establishing each school is a performance contract detailing the school's mission, program, students served, performance goals, and methods of assessment.
What is the difference between charter schools and other public schools?
Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning that families choose them for their children. They operate with freedom from some of the regulations that are imposed upon district schools. Charter schools are accountable for academic results and for upholding the promises made in their charters. They must demonstrate performance in the areas of academic achievement, financial management, and organizational stability.
One of the most recognized charter schools in NYC is Success Academy, A free school option with great academic results. A good option if you are not zoned for a highly rated public school.
Private Schools There are many private schools in NYC, most schools have a junior program for 2 and 3 yr olds (3 hour morning classes) and then move on to offer pre K program then the usual school system. A good way to secure a spot in a private school is to participate In the junior classes as you are already familiar with the school and the school is familiar with you. Either way you will have to attend several interviews (parents and children).
Fees vary, but a typical fee for kindergarten through to grade 12 will typically start at $35k per year
If you are still unsure about a school, you can hire a 'school consultant specialist' (yes only in NYC) or join the Parents League of NYC which supports families with offering resources and guidance for choosing a school.
G&T Program - Gifted and Talented kids If you think you may have a child prodigy or just a smart cookie, you can have them sit an exam which may allow them to attend a G&T program. These programs are located within the public school system, some schools run a G&T program inside the regular public school and there are also entire public schools dedicated to Gifted and Talented kids.
The registration process to have your child tested is usually from October - November and the test will be in January. it is available for kids starting school K-Grade 3. More info can be found on the G&T website www.schools.nyc.gov