School year begins for 1 million NYC kids
Pre-K for all; New programs for ‘Renewal’ Schools
It was back to school for more than one million kids attending New York City public schools Wednesday morning, including more than 65,000 children entering pre-K as a result of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pre-K initiative.
Maesie Strauss, age 5 1/2, said she had a “tremendous” first day at kindergarten at P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights.
“My teacher is Miss [Anne] Lee. She was the best!” Maesie said while swinging her arms with boundless enthusiasm.
Maesie added that her favorite activity on the first day of school was coloring, and she assured this reporter that she would be attending kindergarten at P.S. 8 “for the whole year. Every single day!”
Maesie’s parents Megan Ryan and Steven Strauss said they were very excited about the start of kindergarten at P.S. 8, much in the news lately due to overcrowding and a shortage of kindergarten slots.
“It’s all good,” Strauss said diplomatically.
Kindergartener Sam Heller told his parents Beth Eisgrau-Heller and Rob Heller that he had a “great” first day. But when this reporter asked him the same question he smirked and said, “Horrible!”
“He’s being cheeky,” his dad said.
Ms. Heller reported that she felt “kind of floaty” on her son’s first day at school. Like, “What just happened? My son is in kindergarten.”
Sam’s dad was more positive. “I did very well. I didn’t cry once,” he said.
“So far so good,” said school crossing guard Katrina Thomas, who supervises kids crossing Henry Street at Middagh Street. “Some buses were late today. They’re usually on time.”
Thomas said she watched carefully when parents let their kids walk from the subway station to the school.
“The parents watch, and I watch to get them across safe.”
Officials Welcome Students
NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña made her first-day rounds of public schools in all five boroughs, including P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, where she spent more than 20 years as a teacher and principal.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Fariña were both on hand to welcome parents and students at Staten Island’s P.S. 59, where the mayor touted the success of his pre-K initiative.
“It’s an incredible day for New York City. 65,000 kids getting free, high-quality, full-day pre-K,” de Blasio told reporters. “We’ve heard the phrase ‘universal pre-k’ talked about for a generation, but it was never really true until today.”
“This will make the whole school system stronger because now every child begins with a strong educational foundation,” he said.
It’s not too late to sign up for pre-K this year. “So, if you want your child in pre-k and you haven’t signed up, call 3-1-1, or go online – nyc.gov/prek,” de Blasio said.
The mayor congratulated Fariña for her 50 years of service as a teacher, principal and administrator in the city’s school system.
“Carmen Fariña, happy 50th anniversary,” he said.
“Aw, thank you. Thank you. An apple for the teacher,” the chancellor replied.
Fariña said the school system was looking at a number of initiatives to address the questions of school segregation and low performance.
“The reality is diversity is beyond ethnicity, and beyond socioeconomic, it’s also about English language learners, it’s about special needs kids,” she said.
New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer visited P.S. 10 and P.S. 321 in Brooklyn with Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon and state Sen. Jessie Hamilton.
“Looking forward to the year ahead, I remain committed to making sure New York City’s public schools have the resources they need to help their students succeed,” Stringer said.
This year 94 “Renewal” schools will be put under the microscope by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, eager to take them over or replace them with charter schools.
The city is investing in a number of initiatives at the Renewal schools, including extra teacher training, partnerships with social service organizations and language programs for non-English speakers.
De Blasio’s wife Chirlane McCray accompanied the mayor to P.S. 59 and reminisced with him about sending their two children, Chiara and Dante, now in college, off to school for the first time.
“As I watched the students say goodbye and head into school today, I couldn’t help but think about how Bill and I were feeling when we saw Dante off to college a few weeks ago, and how we’re going to be feeling in a couple of weeks when Chiara heads off to her senior year in college. It’s all – it’s all so bittersweet,” she said.
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