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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Popularity of universal pre-K puts strain on system

By Maya Rajamani
Posted
File Photo Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Angelyn Dominguez, is engrossed in a book at the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center. The organization is expanding its pre-K offerings for the fall.
File Photo Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Jayleen Casado, 3, smiles with glee as teacher Reyna Espinal lifts her up at the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center’s pre-K class last year.
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After a third of applicants for public universal pre-K programs did not receive placements, the pressure is on Community Based Early Childhood Centers (CBECCs) to make up the difference.

Department of Education (DOE) offers went out on June 6, but 57 percent of applicants in the Bronx’s district 10 missed out on public school spots. 

The lack of matches has left some parents scrambling to find seats for their children at community-based organizations (CBOs) with universal pre-K programs.

“Right now, we have people that are calling us every single day that didn’t get in in other places wanting to know if we have spaces available,” said Yenny Disla-Toone, the assistant executive director of the Early Childhood Services Program at Kingsbridge Heights Community Center (KHCC).

Ms. Disla-Toone added that families calling to request a seat have been placed on a waiting list for KHCC’s universal pre-K programs, which currently has about 50 students.

District 10’s 1,026 unfulfilled applications puts it below the city average, which saw two thirds of all applicants assigned pre-K seats at public school sites on June 6. The situation was worst in Queens’ district 24, where 70 percent of students who had applied by April 23 went without a seat.

The DOE reported 19,689 children total were assigned to full-day seats, compared to 14,407 last year, with 45 percent receiving their first choice and 18 percent placed in a back-up spot.

Race against time

KHCC recently received DOE funds to expand two of its existing programs for 4-year-olds. It now has 38 total spots.

Still, Ms. Disla-Toone said part of the difficulty many CBOs face is finding the space, funding and licensing to further expand, all before September.

“That can pose a challenge if you don’t have anything ready to go,” she said.

Riverdale Neighborhood House (RNH), another CBO, has prepared for the expansion for months.

This past year, it offered 72 half-day pre-K seats. Last week, RNH Executive Director Dan Eudene and his colleagues received the official notice that their organization would receive enough funding to expand each of their seats to full day slots.

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