Midway through reading a picture book called My Five Senses to 10 preschool students spread out on a brightly colored rug at her feet, teacher Wendy Lamoutt posed a question while she was on a page with a large drawing of a child’s ears.
“Do you listen to me all of the time, or some of the time?” she playfully asked.
“Some of the time!” 4-year-old Hasey Flores candidly replied.
“Thank you for your honesty, Hasey,” Ms. Lamoutt said with a smile.
The session at Kingsbridge Heights Community Center’s (KHCC) new preschool building at 259 W. 231st Street seemed to embody coordinator Bolivar Avila’s philosophy.
“We want to make sure that all the children are able to get quality daycare,” the soft-spoken educator said during an interview at his office. “We want to make sure they’re able to socialize with each other and have a conversation. We want to make sure they express themselves.”
That philosophy suffered a setback in 2012, when the city changed its funding for KHCC. Instead of paying for 47 Head Start spots as in 2011, the city funded 23 slots for that kind of pre-K along with 24 slots in a program known as Child Care.
KHCC had to turn away families not eligible for the latter program, which gives vouchers on a sliding scale to parents who work or are at school, but excludes undocumented individuals.
The center’s fortunes changed last summer, when the city’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) awarded KHCC a $4,659,124 EarlyLearn grant that enabled it to open the new facility that Mr. Avil runs.
The 259 W. 231st St. building currently has 60 students. The preschool, housed in the former home of the shuttered Kingsbridge Innovative Design Charter School, had a grand opening earlier this month.
KHCC’s Executive Director Giselle Susca said the EarlyLearn award provided for more than 200 slots, with a number of them going to childcare providers who work out of their homes.