Southern Queens Pre-K Clear to Launch

Southern Queens Pre-K Clear to Launch

The Woodhaven Library is set to open its first universal pre-kindergarten class in September, the first of its kind in the country.   File Photo

The Woodhaven Library is set to open its first universal pre-kindergarten class in September, the first of its kind in the country. File Photo

The city kept busy this summer making sure its universal pre-kindergarten sites were ready to launch on Sept. 4, but announced some sites were still categorized as public health hazards. Nonetheless, southern Queens was ready to go.

The city Health Department along with the Department of Education said this week that 12 of the more than 1,100 sites where pre-K classes were being offered still showed violations and were in need of immediate action if they wanted to open on time. But none of those 12 were in the southern Queens communities of Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Ozone Park or Richmond Hill.

“We have been working all summer to make sure every single classroom is ready for children,” said Deputy Mayor Richard Buery. “These inspections are rigorous and detailed, and no site remains open if the inspector has concerns about child safety. Every parent can have confidence that when they walk their child into a pre-K classroom for that first day of school, it’ll be an environment that is safe, healthy and enriching for their child.”

The Health Department spent recent works working with providers to lower the number of violations, bringing the figures down from 33 to 12 this summer. Furthermore, sites with open violations that require correction within a two-week timeframe also dropped from 76 to 28, the city said.

“That reduction will continue through the first day of school, even as rigorous inspections and site visits continue,” a Health Department spokesman said. “If a center has a condition that requires immediate correction but cannot be addressed to prevent risk to children, the center will be closed. The Department of Education has readied contingency plans in the case a center does not meet its obligations. “

The city said it requires full documentation or a re-inspection to verify that violations were addressed. The health department also said it added 43 inspectors to conduct walk-throughs of the sites. The city Fire Department also dedicated 20 new inspectors to pre-K spots and the department of buildings added inspectors to address the thousands of outstanding building code violations.

“Our inspectors set a high bar for safety, and we know that they will continue to find room for improvement in many sites that they visit,” said Health Department Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “I am pleased that they have been able to maximize efficiency in addressing these concerns.”

Southern Queens was seen as an area that greatly needed universal pre-kindergarten classes, due to competitiveness of the current programs, according to Joann King, director of communications for the Queens Library system. One site was set to launch in Woodhaven at the Woodhaven Public Library

“We have been offering children’s education on an informal basis, like story time and summer reading, for quite a long time,” King said. “This is sort of the next step in that evolution.”


By Phil Corso


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