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Preschoolers Transitioning to Kindergarten

October 19, 2021
Early Childhood, Special Education

Applying to Kindergarten

Every parent of a child entering kindergarten, with or without an Individualized Education Program (IEP), is encouraged to participate in the Kindergarten admissions process. You can begin this process by exploring the NYC Department of Education’s (DOE) Kindergarten Directory and the Kindergarten Admissions section on their website in the fall of the year before your child enters kindergarten. You should receive a yellow letter that includes information about upcoming DOE Kindergarten Orientation Meetings (KOM), held in late fall/early winter. They are held in English and Spanish. Interpretation is available by request. These meetings provide a complete overview of the kindergarten admissions and special education processes, which are two separate processes that occur simultaneously. You are encouraged to attend the KOM. 

Applications are submitted in the winter before your child enters kindergarten. Applications can be submitted online at, over the phone by calling (718) 935-2009 or at a DOE Family Welcome Center. The kindergarten application deadline is typically announced in the fall.

You must pre-register your child at the school they were offered in order to hold their seat, but if you applied and your child was accepted at a charter school, specialized program, or through a community school waiting list, your child is not obligated to attend the school offered through the kindergarten admissions process.

The Special Education Process (Turning 5)

If your child may require special education services, you will also go through the special education process and develop a kindergarten IEP.

If your child does not receive preschool special education services, and there is a concern that they may need services in kindergarten, you or a qualified professional can make the referral request directly to the Committee on Special Education (CSE) in your child’s home district.

For children already receiving preschool special education services, the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) will automatically refer your child to the Committee on Special Education (CSE), so they can begin next steps. If your child is being referred for the first time for an initial evaluation, you will receive a blue letter (notice of referral) from the DOE. If you do not receive this letter by February 1, you can contact the CSE in your home district.

Who will you work with during this process?

Your child’s case will be assigned to a DOE representative, who will contact you. This is often, but not always, the school psychologist at the zoned elementary school. The representative will review your child’s file and determine whether any new evaluations are needed. You may also request a new evaluation in any area of concern, such as speech.

The DOE representative will schedule a kindergarten IEP meeting between mid- February and June 15. If your child is found eligible for kindergarten special education services, then the IEP team will create a new IEP for your child, which will include a disability classification, program recommendation, and related services, such as occupational therapy.

Note: The only formal evaluation automatically included in the Turning 5 process is a classroom observation and a review of existing documentation. Any other evaluations will need to be specifically requested.

Kindergarten Placement

Once a Kindergarten IEP is developed, you will receive a green School Location Letter between the end of spring and the end of summer. This letter lists the school where your child’s special education services will be provided. It is usually the same school that admitted your child through the general kindergarten admissions process, but may be different if that school is not appropriately based on the IEP recommendations. If you have not already registered at this school, you can do so now.