Speaking with Mayor Bill de Blasio at PS 239 in Ridgewood Tuesday, Queens educators said they welcomed the city’s plan to expand full-day pre-kindergarten seats to 4-year-olds in the five boroughs.
“You can tell the students who have been in school that extra year – it’s such a nice way to transition in,” PS 239 first grade teacher Michelle Henriquez said during de Blasio’s visit, which occurred two days before families who applied to public school pre-K programs were expected to hear back from the city Department of Education about whether or not their child received a public school seat.
De Blasio stressed that even if a child was not matched with a public school spot, there are steps individuals can take to maximize their chances of finding the right pre-kindergarten program at other sites.
Last week, the city announced it was offering 25,000 full-day pre-K seats in community-based Early Childhood Centers across the city, on top of the 20,000 spots available in public schools. Beginning Tuesday, de Blasio announced that the city launched an online application process to help parents find, and apply for, pre-kindergarten seats at the centers.
“We said from the beginning we want to change the standard to full day,” de Blasio said in Ridgewood. “That’s the audacious goal we’re moving heaven and earth to achieve.
“My message to parents is maximize your options, apply to any sites that can be good for you,” the mayor continued. “We are holding sites to rigorous standards.”
Beginning Thursday, when parents find out if their child was accepted to a public school pre-K spot, families will have until June 20 to register their child at the school to which they were accepted. After June 20, parents can apply in person at a public school for available seats remaining or to place their child on a wait list.
Applications at community-based early childhood centers are open now, and parents are encouraged to apply by June 26. Admissions to these centers will remain open through Oct. 1.
All pre-K programs at public schools and early childhood centers are listed at nyc.gov/prek, and online applications for the early childhood centers are available.
PS 239 Principal Robin Connolly said her school would work with parents to help them access the information and resources they needed to apply to the pre-K programs. At the Ridgewood school, there are 65 applications for 36 full day spots.
Teachers participating in Tuesday’s discussion with de Blasio stressed that they have seen pre-K make a significant difference in a child’s life.
First-grade teacher Kristine Tracy said that students in her class who went through pre-K were performing above grade level on literacy tests.
Not everyone was entirely on board with the mayor’s plan, and Amy Oztan, a blogger with selfishmom.com, asked if children would be receiving a “second-tier” education at the early childhood centers.
“I have absolute confidence in our [community based organizations], Catholic schools, yeshivas, charter schools,” the mayor said.
By Anna Gustafson