New York City families are zoned out — of their local high schools.
The city Department of Education has quietly done away with high-school zoning, which for decades guaranteed students a seat in a school near their home.
That leaves 8th-graders facing more uncertainty as they try to navigate an increasingly confusing admission system, and dashes some families’ long-standing plans.
“When my son applied for high school, all he had to do was put down Queens Metropolitan,” said Rayna Digena, whose Woodhaven address previously gave her children priority status at the Forest Hills campus.
Her 8th-grade daughter, Peri, 13, now hopes to join brother Michael, 16, a junior, at the neighborhood-oriented 1,050-student school. ”She has her heart set on it.”
But Peri may not get into Queens Metropolitan — or to any school in her home borough — when she starts the DOE’s byzantine application process.
“I’m very nervous about it,” Digena said, citing concerns about a lengthy commute to a distant school.
New York City’s sprawling system of more than 400 high schools previously limited admission at some schools to students or residents of a borough, district or neighborhood zone.
Before 2021, some of the most prestigious and competitive schools in Manhattan all but shut out kids who lived outside District 2. The DOE dropped those priorities last year.
For next fall, the DOE is eliminating all geographic restrictions — ending zoned guarantees at 22 large high schools, most in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. They include Francis Lewis, Bayside, and Cardozo in Queens; Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn; and Tottenville in Staten Island.
Digena “heard a rumor” about the zone elimination, but “wasn’t told about it,” she said.
“When I asked about it at school meetings, the answer was, ‘We’re not sure yet.’’’
In recent admission information sessions, parents have repeatedly asked about the status of zoned high schools — only to receive robotically scripted non-answers from DOE officials.
“Will there be zoned high schools this year?” one parent asked at a citywide forum on Tuesday.
The reply: “We do not yet have updates available about zoned programs.”
Yet according to the DOE’s new 2022 NYC Public Schools Admissions Guide: “Beginning with admissions for students entering high school in September 2022, no high school applicant will have priority to attend a school based on where they live.”
The DOE’s high school directory now lists all city high schools– and the special programs within them — as “Open to NYC residents.” Some top schools and programs may “screen” students, but the DOE has not yet told principals what criteria, such as grades, test scores and interviews, they can use to select kids.
Two years ago, about 250 high schools and programs had some type of district, borough or other residency requirement.
According to Mayor de Blasio, this “limited “opportunity for hard-working students to attend some of our most in-demand schools based on where they live.”
Ending the priorities “will expand opportunity and increase choice for all rising high school students,” he claimed in a December press release.
But the DOE has not yet told principals how to break the news to parents or help them adjust, school sources said.
“It’s confusing,” said Adriana Avila, a PTA mom of three and member of Community Education Council 26 in Queens. “Parents are not getting the full story of how it’s going to impact them.”
A PTA dad said it hit him “like a punch in the stomach” when a Post reporter showed him Page 10 of the DOE’s admission guide.
Being zoned for Queens Metropolitan “was a factor” when the family, which requested anonymity, moved to Forest Hills eight years ago, he said. His two older kids both attended the school, and they planned for a third child, now in 8th grade, to go there as well.
“I’m shocked to hear that this is going through,” his wife said, adding that parents she knows did not have their children take the entry test for Catholic schools last week because they presumed they would get into zoned schools.
“I really feel a lot of people are not aware. There is going to be a rude awakening.”
Donna Russo, a Middle Village real estate agent, said the loss of zoned schools will affect property values.
“A lot of first-time home buyers want to come into an area based on the schools,” she said. “This may force people who buy a house and pay school taxes to put their kids in private schools.”
CEC 26 in Queens, which includes Francis Lewis, Bayside and Cardozo high schools, passed a resolution last month opposing the change.
The DOE has not yet opened next year’s high school application process — making it likely to begin after Jan. 1, said Laura Zingmond, senior editor of InsideSchools.com.
That will dump the admissions mess onto the lap of New York’s next mayor, Eric Adams. “I don’t know whether an Adams administration will do things differently,” Zingmond said.
An Adams spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
In the past, many New York City high schools were “zoned” – that is, they guaranteed a seat to any student residing in the neighborhood. Others were reserved for borough or district residents, allowing no other students to apply. All these geographic limitations have now been eliminated.
Former Zone Guarantee Schools:
- Harry S Truman High School – 750 Baychester Avenue, Bronx
- Abraham Lincoln High School – 2800 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn
- Boys and Girls High School – 1700 Fulton Street, Brooklyn
- Fort Hamilton High School – 8301 Shore Road, Brooklyn
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School – 5800 20th Avenue, Brooklyn
- James Madison High School – 3787 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn
- New Utrecht High School – 1601 80th Street, Brooklyn
- Bayside High School – 32-24 Corporal Kennedy Street, Bayside
- Benjamin N. Cardozo High School – 57-00 223rd Street, Bayside
- Forest Hills High School – 67-01 110th Street, Forest Hills
- Francis Lewis High School – 58-20 Utopia Parkway, Fresh Meadows
- Grover Cleveland High School – 21-27 Himrod Street, Ridgewood
- Hillcrest High School – 160-05 Highland Avenue, Jamaica
- John Adams High School – 101-01 Rockaway Boulevard, Ozone Park
- John Bowne High School – 63-25 Main Street, Flushing
- Long Island City High School – 14-30 Broadway, Astoria
- William Cullen Bryant High School – 48-10 31st Avenue, Astoria
- Curtis High School – 105 Hamilton Avenue, Staten Island
- New Dorp High School – 465 New Dorp Lane, Staten Island
- Port Richmond High School – 85 St. Josephs Avenue, Staten Island
- Susan E. Wagner High School – 1200 Manor Road, Staten Island
- Tottenville High School – 100 Luten Avenue, Staten Island
Former Borough-Only Schools:
- Herbert H. Lehman High School – 3000 East Tremont Avenue, Bronx
- Riverdale / Kingsbridge Academy – 660 West 237th Street, Bronx
- Edward R. Murrow High School – 1600 Avenue L, Brooklyn
- Information Technology High School – 21-16 44th Road, Long Island City
- Newcomers High School – 28-01 41st Avenue, Long Island City
- Newtown High School – 48-01 90th Street, Elmhurst
- Michael J. Petrides School – 715 Ocean Terrace, Staten Island
Former District-Only Schools:
- Midwood High School Liberal Arts and Science Institute – 2839 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn
- Robert F. Kennedy Community High School – 75-40 Parsons Boulevard, Fresh Meadow