In Philadelphia, children are eligible to attend kindergarten starting at the age of five. Parents can send their child to a variety of schools, including: public neighborhood, public charter, private independent or private Catholic. Learning how to navigate this process can be complicated, so parents should start planning for their child’s kindergarten experience a full year before he or she turns five!
If you have children younger than four, check out our Early Childhood Education website for more information on early childcare programs.
The School District's registration window begins January 16, 2018 and ends May 31, 2018. Seats fill up quickly, so the sooner you reserve a spot for your child, the better! Attending your public neighborhood school is free. To apply, visit your local neighborhood school. For more information on how to enroll your child in your local neighborhood school, click here to view the District's guidelines.
Visit the School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Early Childhood Education to learn more details about policies and procedures. If your neighborhood school has reached registration capacity, then your child will be reassigned to the next closest district school that has available space.
If you wish to send your child to a school other than your neighborhood school, you may complete a registration application and submit it to the School District of Philadelphia. You will be notified if your child has been accepted. The deadline for such applications for the 2019-20 school year is November 2, 2018.
Attending a public charter school is free. To apply, parents must submit a simple application by the school’s deadline. Many applications and deadlines can be found online by clicking on a school’s profile page. Alternatively, over 80 charter schools will be accepting the Philadelphia Charter School Standard Application this year. Click here to learn more about it, see a full list of participating schools, and download your copy today. Many of those charter schools have also agreed upon one of the two standard deadlines: January 31, 2018 or March 1, 2018. Click here to browse the deadlines of participating schools.
Schools that receive more applications than they have space for will hold lotteries to determine which students will be accepted into the program for the upcoming year. Though some schools have preference for students living in their neighborhood or with siblings already attending the schools, charter schools cannot consider things like preschool records or a family’s income. Most lotteries occur in the spring and many are open for you to attend.
After being selected, you will be asked to complete paperwork to enroll (see below). You can usually apply without having this paperwork already!
Families not chosen in the lottery may decide to remain on a wait-list and be notified as space becomes available. Check out our article for a list of charter school application deadlines and lottery dates.
Parents must submit an application and pay an annual tuition in order to have their child attend a private school. Schools will notify you if your child has been accepted. Some schools may require a parent meeting or school tour before the application is complete.
There are many scholarship organizations and financial aid options available, as well as a small number of schools that are completely tuition-free. To learn more, see our article Paying for Private School.
Please note that many private independent schools begin in preschool and may have more space available for three or four year olds than for Kindergarten.
Parents must submit an online application and pay an annual tuition in order to have their child attend a Catholic school. Schools will notify you if your child has been accepted.
Some schools may require a parent meeting or school tour before the application is complete.
There are many scholarship and financial aid options available. Learn more about private schools, tuition and financial aid options here.
If Kindergarten is not legally required, why should my child enroll in a Kindergarten program?
Kindergarten provides the opportunity for students to start building the skills necessary to be successful in school. Additionally, if you suspect your child of having a disability, it’s best to enroll them in a kindergarten program so he or she can be evaluated and diagnosed as soon as possible. Lastly, the chances of getting into a top performing K-8 charter or special admissions school in our city are much greater in Kindergarten than in first grade due to available space. Learn more about top rated schools in our city here.
When do I need to register my child for kindergarten?
To enroll in a public neighborhood school, families must visit your local neighborhood school and register your child at least two weeks prior to the start of the school year. Kindergarten Registration for the 2019-20 school year will open in the winter of 2018. Check this article frequently for updates on specific dates. Visit the School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Early Childhood Education to learn more details about policies and procedures.
Please be aware that slots can fill up quickly. To make sure your child has a space at your neighborhood school, register as early as possible. If your neighborhood school has reached registration capacity, then your child will be reassigned to the next closest district school that has available space.
To apply for a public charter, private independent or private religious school, families must check individual schools’ application deadlines. Most charter school deadlines are in January through March. Frequently check the 2018-2019 charter school deadlines for updates, especially as we approach the winter. Review 2017-18 charter school deadlines here. The registration/enrollment process for charter schools occurs once a child has been accepted into the kindergarten program.
What’s the difference between applying and registering to a school?
For your zoned public neighborhood school, there is no application. Simply go to the school and register your child in person. If you would like to send your child to another public district school, you must fill out an application (found on the School District of Philadelphia’s website). You will be notified if your child has been accepted. Please note, the deadline for transfer applications for the 2018-19 school year is November 13, 2017.
For all other schools, a parent must first submit an application. You will begin the registration process if your child has been accepted into the kindergarten program. Parents are asked to provide supporting documents at this time.
Do I need any documentation to register my child?
Parents applying to a public district or public charter school must submit the following documents: child’s birth certificate, social security number, two proofs of address (ex. utility bill) and your child’s immunization records. Find more information on District registration here.
Private schools will require a parent to submit supporting documentation as well. Check with individual schools to determine what paperwork is required upon registration.
Can I afford a private school?
Most private schools offer their own financial aid and tuition assistance. It’s important to note that schools have a limited supply of financial aid that they give out each year. Due to this, it’s very important to apply for financial aid as early as possible. Find more about private school and financial aid options here.
In addition school-based financial aid, there are several local organizations that provide financial support for children from low-income families.
The Children’s Scholarship Fund of Philadelphia (CSFP) offers four-year scholarships for students in grades K-8 to attend a private school. CSFP is the largest provider of K-8th grade scholarships in Pennsylvania and is partnered with over 160 participating schools.
The maximum scholarship awarded is $2,500 per family. Families contribute a minimum of $500 per year, with the average family paying approximately $1,800 annually. If you are selected, up to three children in your family may receive CSFP scholarship awards.
To apply, complete and submit an online application. Every parent who completes and submits the application by the deadline will be entered into CSFP’s random lottery. The application period for the 2019-20 school year will open mid-September 2018 and will close March 1, 2019. Priority will be given to those who submit an application before mid-November 2018.
We update this article as new information arrives so make sure to check back. If you see information that’s missing or incorrect, please email us here.
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