The Nest

NestApple's Real Estate Blog

Featuring real estate articles and information to help real estate buyers and sellers. The Nest features writings from Georges Benoliel and other real estate professionals. Georges is the Co-Founder of NestApple and has been working as an active real estate investor for over a decade.

Something to consider on your new home search: How to find the best public schools in Manhattan?

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Kids in school with DeBlasio

They say in NY you are always looking for 3 things:  Your next job, you next apartment or your next love. Since I am happily married, love my current apartment and have started my own business I’ve added a new item to worry about: where should I put my unborn child in school?

Of course there are dozens of great private schools but I’m interested in learning how to navigate the public school system and specifically public schools in New York. Most NYC kids who attend public schools go to the school associated with their district; however these days there are lots of additional choices available, from charter schools to magnet schools to gifted and talented programs. It’s not easy to find out what school is the best fit for your child.

The city’s Department of Education website describes it all in great detail; another great resource is Insideschools.org, which offers pros and cons and summaries about each school.

From what other parents say and experts recommend it’s important to plan in advance.

Regardless if you’re applying to go to your zone school or other alternatives you always have to apply. This process should be done in spring before the school year you are planning to enroll your child. Each school has their own rules and regulations and you must study them carefully to follow protocol.

For those with small children, De Blasio’s initiative to establish Pre-K for all came as blessing

; all four-year- olds in the city are guaranteed a spot. The main issue is that not all public schools offer pre-K programs. This is something the Department of Education should address on the near future. There’s a single pre-kindergarten application and parents get to list up to a twelve options. Applications for September enrollment are due in April of that year.

Experts have rated pre-k programs according to what’s called the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale, known as ECERS, which is a nationally recognized tool for evaluating pre-k programs. The city recently found that most programs overall met a key benchmark associated with positive student outcomes. Because pre-schools classes are caped at 25 students, most schools tend to grade pretty high on their pre-k programs.

A great tool to search for schools in your zone is the DOE website or by calling 311. Use this with your current address or put in the address of the apartment you are interested in. When it comes to geographic terms this is what you need to know: Districts are comprised of school “zones“, which are often referred to “catchments“. There are 32 school districts in the five boroughs, plus hundreds of zones.

The Department of Education grades school from A to F. These progress reports take into account year’s scores on English Language Arts and Math tests, improvements on these tests from the previous year, and the learning environment of the school. Grades are only a factor to consider; schools are graded in comparison to others. Also new schools that could be great options will not be graded because of lack of available data.

There are the traditional schools, the-ones- everyone’s-heard- of, such as PS 6 on the
Upper East Side, PS 87 on the Upper West Side and PS 234 in Tribeca. However keep in mind there are up and coming zones, which are improving their schools such as Chelsea and Washington Heights. Williamsburg has great elementary schools that grade highly in several polls and forums. There is parental frenzy that your child will not be accepted in your zoned school but DEO officials say that even if there is overcrowding and children can’t be accommodated in their zoned school, they will reassign them to another neighborhood school generally in June.

Another misconception is that if you decide to move your child will be forced to change schools. You can find the apartment of your dreams using NestApple without traumatizing your child! If you eventually decide to move out of your zone, your child won’t be required to switch schools. Once your child starts at a school, they can remain in it. The child will be able to stay put because the city’s policy is basically once you’re in you’re in. There is one catch: your child’s younger siblings who were not yet enrolled will not get priority in the same school since they are no longer living in the appropriate zoning; just something to keep in mind. A good strategy used by many is to rent in a good school district and move within a year or 2 if you can no longer afford it.

Problems on zoning could arise when the administration decides to rezone to relieve over-crowding in certain areas (yes – they can do that). This happened in Park Slope and it was a nightmare for parents. In November 2013 the attendance boundaries for Public Schools 321 and 107 (in Park Slope) were redrawn to relieve overcrowding, which was bad luck for families who had bought their homes specifically because of those schools and suddenly found themselves zoned for another. Unfortunately your resources are limited and there is little you can do when something like this happens. Something similar occurred recently in the Upper West Side (nest the West Side River) and looks like some parents are still very upset about the new school limits. No one said it was easy living in New York and schooling is just another factor to reflect on when considering settling in the city.

The good news is that there are many resources available to ease the pain. Based on rigorous analysis you will make the best choice. Knowing your options and understanding how the system will work will leave you more time to search for your next apartment and NestApple will be right here to guide you!



Georges Benoliel Founder of NestApple - NestApple NYC cashback rebate

Georges Benoliel

Georges has been working in Wall Street for the last 16 years trading derivatives with hedge funds. He has been an active real estate investor for over a decade. Georges graduated from HEC Business School in Paris and holds a master in Finance from ESADE Barcelona.