Heard Around Town: Half-hearted hurrah for half-day pre-K

Heard Around Town: Half-hearted hurrah for half-day pre-K

Heard Around Town: Half-hearted hurrah for half-day pre-K
August 19, 2015

It was not quite the mazel tov moment the mayor might have envisioned.

New York City recently announced it would offer 4,500 half-day pre-kindergarten slots this fall, which comes on the heels of a campaign by parochial schools to get the city to expand the number of half-day seats and accommodate religious programs that do not have enough secular class time to meet full-day universal pre-kindergarten requirements.

But some officials and groups that had advocated for the seats were quick to couch their thanks in gripes about delays in getting a response from the city. They claim the three-week timeline before classes start does not give providers ample time to hire staff and make other preparations.

One community leader said the city might have trouble filling all 4,500 slots because parents initially interested in half-day classes have made other plans.

“Many more students would have been able to participate in the half-day program had this process been as open and timely as the full-day UPK application process,” said Orthodox Union Advocacy-Teach New York State in a statement. “It took nearly eight months from when the mayor announced he would release a Request for Proposals (RFP) in December 2014, to the release of these seats just three weeks before the beginning of the school year.” 

City Department of Education spokeswoman Devora Kaye said the administration had previously stated its plans to continue a “modest half-day pre-K program.”

“But we urge all parents to first consider a strong full-day program as they look for the best option to meet their child’s needs. We have seen an incredible response from families applying for full-day pre-K this year, and we will continue to encourage parents to give full-day programs a very close look to ensure this critical year of academic instruction and social-emotional growth,” Kaye said in a statement. 

The DOE said 118 programs, including 39 newly awarded ones, will share the 4,500 half-day seats. Some organizations that applied to offer both half-day and full-day pre-K opted only to offer a full day program, the DOE said.

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Sarina Trangle