Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge school board backs parent demands for more half-day pre-K

May 18, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Members of the Community Education Council want the city to offer more half-day pre-k options for parents. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas

A Bay Ridge school board is siding with parents who are demanding that the de Blasio administration offer more half-day pre-kindergarten classes for their children.

The Community Education Council (CEC) of School District 20 voted unanimously to pass a resolution calling on the city to give parents a viable option of choosing between full day and half-day pre-K sessions. The council charged that the de Blasio administration’s universal pre-K program, called Pre-K For All, is offering far more full-day pre-K seats than half-day pre-K seats and that parents virtually have no choice.

With so few half-day pre-K seats available, parents often have to search high and low for a school in which to enroll their children, according to advocates, who said that in many cases, the schools are not located nearby.

Other parents seeking half-day pre-K have opted for private schools.

The council’s vote took place at the panel’s monthly meeting at its headquarters at 415 89th St. on May 12. The council represents the interests of parents and children in more than 35 schools in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst, Borough Park and Sunset Park.

The emphasis on full day pre-K is akin to painting the city’s early education system with a broad brush, according to CEC members.

“NYC families do not all have identical needs regarding pre-K. All families should have the choice for full vs. half day pre-K and not have to pay for private school due to not having a choice,” the CEC 20 resolution reads.

“The city should offer parents a real choice; offer both half-day and full-day pre-k and see which one the parents choose.  Many parents are signing up for full-day because there aren’t really any half-day classes out there. If they had the half-day choice, they would take it,” CEC President Laurie Windsor told the Brooklyn Eagle.

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In its resolution, CEC 20 also claimed that “the Pre-K For All initiative only offers a full day option and a modest number of half-day seats” and that “the decision to severely limit the number of half day seats was made without consultation with the public.”

Parents who have criticized the city for favoring full-day pre-K expressed concern that full-day pre-K means forcing 4-year-old children to sit in a classroom for too many hours at such a young age.

A Bay Ridge stay-at-home mom is one of the leaders of the movement to convince the city to give parents more of a choice in pre-K programs.

Andrea Stockton started a petition drive on change.org and has been speaking out about the issue.

In a recent interview with the Brooklyn Eagle, Stockton said while she loves the idea of giving children a head start in their education by having them attend pre-K classes, she’s not crazy about making the kids sit in a classroom all day.

Half-day sessions would be better for some families, according to Stockton, a mother of three young children.

“A week of full day pre-K adds up to 31 hours a week! Thirty-one hours in a classroom for a 4-year-old is difficult,” Stockton said.

Stockton’s petition drive has garnered more than 700 signatures to date.

Pre-K classes are offered in public schools and in nursery schools that contract with the city to provide the classes.

City officials have stated that there is an emphasis on full day pre-K because that’s what parents have requested. In addition, officials have said that full day pre-K is educationally sound.

Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for de Blasio, said the expansion of full-day pre-k is the Administration’s top priority.

“The educational and economic case for full-day pre-K is overwhelming, and clearly, it’s what working parents across the city are demanding the most—with nearly 70,000 families having applied so far,” Norvell told the Brooklyn Eagle in an email.

The de Blasio administration has issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) for pre-K providers to submit proposals to the city for a limited number of pre-K seats in September, Capital New York reported on May 1.

The deadline for submitting proposals is May 22.

Fewer half-day seats will be available citywide in September than were available last year, according to Capital New York, which reported that 12,000 half-day pre-K seats were open. By contrast, more than 53,000 full day seats were available.

Deputy Mayor Richard Buery stated that even thought the city is offering a limited number of half-day pre-k seats, the administration is still encouraging parents to consider full day.

“We saw a truly 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, and urge providers who apply for half-day contracts to also apply for full day contracts since our half-day offering will be modest. For families seeking to apply for half-day, we expect applications to open in June,” Buery said in a statement.

But the half-day pre-K advocates said they’re not giving up.

“While I recognize that most parents prefer full day pre-K for their children, there are still a lot of us who would rather have our kids in a half-day program. It allows the child to have a more gradual transition to the school environment. They can adjust to the rhythms of school without being away from home too long. After all, we are talking about 4-year-olds here,” Stockton said.

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