How to Register for Universal Pre-K (UPK) & Other School Options for Children Who Are 3 or 4 Years Old
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In the City of Boston, it's never too early to think about school options for your child. Whether you're interested in public, charter, or private school options, many schools accept students as young as 4 years old and some even as young as 3 years old.
In Boston, these earliest learners have their own pre-K grades grouped by age: K0 for 3-year-olds and K1 for 4-year-olds. K2 is the grade commonly associated with a traditional kindergarten grade for entering 5-year-old students.
Why You Should Register Your 3- or 4-Year-Old for School
This age group is one of the largest entry points into Boston Public Schools, meaning there is a large number of 4-year-olds all trying to get seats into great-fit schools. Thus, it's critical to register your 4-year-old for every school option available to your family.
Remember: you can register your child for any school seat they get in Boston, but that doesn't mean you have to enroll your child at the school they received a seat. At Boston School Finder, we like to remind families that you can always turn down a seat you receive, but you can't turn down a seat you don't have.
In addition to K0 and K1 options via BPS, Boston has also made a commitment to offer UPK—Universal Pre-Kindergarten—seats for children who are 4 years old at Community-Based Organizations. As of 2021, a very limited number of seats for 3-year-old children are also available.
Seats in Boston's UPK program are FREE to Boston families and serviced by independent providers referred to as Community-Based Organizations, or CBOs for short. Participating UPK programs align with existing BPS curriculum and standards for K1 seats at BPS schools and teachers at participating CBOs are also trained in this curriculum.
Taking a UPK seat for your four-year-old also gives your child priority for a K2 seat at a BPS school the following year through the UPK Connector System. Registering for UPK gives your child a better chance of getting placed at a BPS school of choice with a K2 classroom in the future.
How to Register Your 4-Year-Old for School in Boston
Choosing a great-fit school for your child is one of the most important decisions you can make as a parent—and we believe it's important families get their child into a great-fit school as early as they can. Read on for how to register and apply to all of the options available for 4-year-olds in Boston.
In Boston Public Schools
Currently, there are 78 BPS schools that offer K1 seats for students who will be 4 years old by September 1. As there are a limited number of K0 and K1 seats available, we recommend every family with a 4-year-old register for a K1 BPS seat during their Priority Registration round.
For Grades K0 and K1, families must register by Jan. 28, 2022 to qualify for BPS Priority Registration. Families can still register for K0 and K1 seats after this deadline, but it is very unlikely there will be open seats available for your child in a school setting.
For more information, please read our How to Register for BPS guide.
At UPK Community-Based Organizations (CBO)
There are additional seats for 4-year-olds throughout Boston as part of the UPK program, as shown on the map below:
To enroll your child in UPK at a CBO for the 2021-2022 school year:
Your child must be 4 years old by September 1.
Complete the UPK Application Form online. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, as seats are filled. We encourage families to apply early so they have the best chance of finding their best-fit option.
Contact Arlene Sanchez, Boston UPK Enrollment Manager for Boston Public Schools, to discuss your available UPK options. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can call her at 617-635-1507.
To learn more about Boston's UPK program, please visit the new Universal Pre-K Boston page at the Boston Public Schools website.
The UPK Connector System connects students in participating UPK CBO grade K1 classrooms with specific Boston Public Schools grade K2 classrooms. The Connector gives UPK children more of a chance to be connected to their K2 school of choice. Enrollment in K2 schools is NOT guaranteed or automatic for UPK students. Families who wish to use the UPK Connector must register their child through DiscoverBPS during the K2 priority registration period from February 5 to April 1, 2022.
At Commonwealth Charter Schools
There are several Commonwealth Charter schools in Boston that offer K1 seats for 4-year-olds. These are free, public schools that are not part of the Boston Public Schools district.
Placement at Commonwealth Charter schools is determined by lottery.
To apply for the Charter School Lottery, families must complete the Boston Charter Public School Lottery Application online by February 28, 2023.
Boston’s charter public school lotteries will be held on March 9, 2023. These schools will notify students and families of their lottery results in early March. For more information, please read our How to Apply to Charter Schools guide.
At Private Religious-Affiliated Schools
There are many private religious schools that offer seats for 4-year-olds; many Catholic schools have seats for 3-year-old children and younger infants.
Also known as parochial schools, Boston has a number of private religious-affiliated schools, including a large number of Catholic schools. While private religious-affiliated schools cost money to attend, many of these schools offer financial aid and/or scholarships to students. Some Catholic schools are free or offer subsidized, income-dependent tuition.
To register and enroll your 4-year-old at one of these schools, please contact individual schools directly. You can use our School Finder tool to get their contact information. For more information, please read our How to Apply to Private Schools guide.
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