Applying to Schools Primer

 The basics: Questions everyone has

1.What is a public school?

A public school is a free, publicly-funded school operated by the Buffalo Public Schools District. In Buffalo, admission is determined by various factors covered below.

2. What is a charter school?

A charter school is a public school – free, open to any applicant –  that is not run by the District. They receive public funding but operate independently from the District — and independently from other charters. They were originally seen as distinct alternatives to District Schools and a place for pedagogical experimentation and progressiveness. Some are for-profit, but I believe most are non-profit here in Buffalo. Their student bodies must be determined by a public lottery. They receive different funding from the State than District schools, but they do not have some of the same requirements. As Charter schools have grown in New York State, what they are and who they serve continues to change.

While many Buffalo parents are desperate to get their Kindergartner into one of the good charters here, supporters of public education, many teachers included, feel threatened by the charter schools, as they do not have to hire union teachers, and there is sentiment that pushing charters is a (conservative) political movement to privatize education using corporate philosophies and metrics — like the obsession with data — while using public funds. In addition, charter schools may drop/expel students that don’t meet their standards, and this does contribute to a shedding — often mid-year — of students back into the public system. In this way, teachers, etc. complain that the charters are not serving the same public / population that the District schools do.

 Local charter list here

3. When can my child start school? At age 3, 4, or 5.

 Children that turn 3 in the year (cut off date Dec 31st) that school starts may apply, the year before, for Bennett Park Montessori Center PS 32. This is the one public school in the District that accepts 3-year-olds. (In some cases, then, students are two when the begin school that fall).

 Here is the definition of the public Montessori in Buffalo: Montessori

 4. Is there Pre-K?

Yes. It is for 4-year-olds and it is full day school with busing. Class sizes are 20. Every grade school in the system has Pre-K. The BPS site has a set of online info about Pre-K in the District. Pre-K Page.

None of the Charter schools offer Pre-K. All of the Charters start at K.

Here is a link to the public grade schools that offer Pre-K.

Note: There is one school, PS 59 Dr. Charles R. Drew Science, that is split between two buildings, with the PK-2 in the annex, and there are a few free-standing middle schools like PS 66 North Park Middle Academy, but the majority of grade schools in the District are PK-8. Some are PK-4 and a few are middle schools. 28 Schools are PK-8.

 5. What is the cut off birth date for starting school?

 On or before December 31st.

Pre K students must turn four on or before December 31, 2016, to start school in September of 2016.

Kindergartners must turn five on or before Dec. 31, 2016 to start Kindergarten in Sept of 2016.

6. How do I enroll my kid in school?

Enrolling is a term for a child with a school placement/assigned school after the lottery occurs. You enroll your child in person at Central Registration’s Office, 33 Ash Street.  Applying for school involves filling out the appropriate Parental Choice Application. This is who the website says should fill out PCAs. If your child is:

  • Entering school for the very first time, for example entering Pre-kindergarten, Kindergarten or the First Grade
  • A current BPS student who is at his or her school’s highest grade level
  • New to Buffalo Public Schools System

7. What is Central Reg?

Central Registration administers the School Choice Lottery and is in charge of placing Buffalo students in schools. Dr. Mark Frazier is the head of Central Registration.

8. What is the timeline for applying/registering?

The application time line is a window, which opens in early October and closes in early December. You may submit a completed Parental Choice Application at any time during this window. If you are a new student moving to Buffalo you may submit an application after that window if necessary. The 2014 window was Oct 6 – Dec 5.

 9. How do I get an application ? (How do I fill it out).

 You can download it at the BPS website or pick up a copy at Central Registration. Fairly intelligent people have found themselves unable to fill out the PS, PK and K applications properly without assistance from a person at Central Registration.

10. Are there neighborhood schools?

 No and yes. Read below.

 No : There is not one school that all the kids in your neighborhood go to.  School Choice Admissions means that you may choose to apply to any public school in the District and you may request preference for a specific school based on Proximity, Boundary, Sibling or Criteria/Test-in. (Some schools are restricted by testing or language skill).

 Yes: All city schools have “proximity” preference. And a very few, by that I mean two, schools have boundary neighborhood protections: PS 64 Frederick Law Olmsted and PS 67 Discovery School. Recently the Promise Neighborhood has also been designated as preference for PS 80 Highgate Heights.

 Note: PS 64 (PK-4) is perhaps the best school in the District, and also runs the Gifted and Talented (criteria) school for students K-4. This school has a thing called a “boundary” and this is a map of real estate properties that belong within that neighborhood protection. If you live within that boundary, you can request “Boundary” preference on your application to the PS 64 Olmsted School. For example, the BPS website says that at PS 64

-65 % of seats are citywide Gifted and Talented program – Test-in program

-35 % of seats are original residential zone – see boundary on the BPS website

 (This must not include the ‘seats’ reserved for children entering the dual-language at PS64).

 Boundary is not to be confused with proximity.

 Proximity is a clear cut boundary for neighborhood preference — if you live within a 1.5 radius of a school, you can request preference for that school.

 Sibling preference details:

-Sibling must be a brother or sister of the applicant and reside within the same household.

-Sibling preference does not apply to criteria-based programs.

-Sibling must be currently registered in a Buffalo Public School OR applications are being submitted for new students [siblings].

 Criteria –  There is not currently any information detailing the G&T program or testing on the BPS website.  Typically Olmsted 64 is in charge of the testing administration and selection. They hold an open house every fall. I do know that rising Ks go to Olmsted for a pre-screen and then they take a test on a District Wide testing date for the Gifted Program.

 Dual Language Programs: SPANISH DUAL LANGUAGE (SDL)

PS 64 Frederick Law Olmsted & PS 76 Herman Badillo 

This program consists of Spanish dominant and English dominant students.

  • All applicants must be tested by the Language Assessment Office to determine eligibility
  • Each program provides 50% of seats to Spanish dominant and 50% to English dominant.
  • Under SDL please indicate which component you want to be considered for: Spanish (S) or English (E).

Here is what the BPS Site says about the Criteria based High Schools:

Criteria Program Placement:

  • Placement into a criteria program is based on the student meeting the qualifications.
  • Some schools require an entrance exam/audition (open house schedule found on this website)
  • Qualifications are reviewed by a committee to determine acceptance into the program
  • Should there be more applicants than seat availability, waiting pools are then established.
  • Waiting pool status will be removed once a student is accepted into another Buffalo Public school.

11. Are we all confused now? Apologies.

A note on preferences: I do not pretend to understand how signaling preference “factors” into your Parental Choice Application. All I know is that when we went to a session at PS 64 in the Fall of 2014, Dr Frazier said never to put Gifted & Talented at the top of your preferences, because if your kid gets into the G&T program, that preference will trump all others (sibling, proximity etc).  I have no idea how “likely” it is that a sibling gets a spot in any given school. I think it is considered pretty likely, unless your older child is in a criteria program, in which case, sibling preference DOES NOT apply. Despite what many people will tell you about their younger child getting into 64 anyway (as a sibling while not testing in).

12. Why are parents scared of public schools here?

There are many answers to this, and the question and feeling are not easily answerable. Many city schools have low test scores. Many children in Buffalo live in poverty. Our District has not always (has never?) been well run. This is a city segregated by race and class. There is a long tradition here of private and parochial schools in Buffalo, and a very strong Catholic community. These schools offer an attractive (though not free) alternative to the public schools. As you may know, many people are upset about the current state of public education. Parents have been known to feel assaulted and helpless amidst the current state of affairs. Other questions to ask: Do we deserve good public schools? Should our schools be equal in quality? How can individuals and parents work to make schools a welcoming place? Who does the work of public education — is it parents, is it teachers, is it a state organization? What are the main interests of the people/groups who run our schools?


What are the terms I should know?

Parental Choice /School Choice and the preferences: Sibling, Proximity, Boundary, Promise, and Criteria (a test-in school)



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