Dozens of Island preschoolers were denied Pre-K because of a lack of seats. As a result...
Parents of rising preschoolers are gearing up for a fight. As of the current school year, the Department of Education (DOE) added 18 seats to PS 217 for a total of 36 Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) seats. Yet that left dozens, tallying close to 100 Island families, still on the wait-list to get their 2011 born child into our school.
Parents of children born in 2012 mobilized early, hoping for a more favorable outcome. Led by Susana Del Campo Perea, they have been trying to ensure that there are enough Island seats for the upcoming school year, 2016-2017. Island daycares and schools joined the fight. At one point, it was rumored that Creche Du Monde, Roosevelt Island Day Nursery, and Island Kids would all offer UPK as what the DOE calls NYCEECs (New York City Early Education Centers).
None has received approval yet. The deadline for UPK application was extended to March 9. As of today, only PS217’s 36 seats are on the table. As other schools win approval, parents will be able to apply to them. In fact, parents can opt in to receive emails when UPK seats in our district open up.
Unfortunately, Island Kids does not believe they will be able to offer the program. According to Nikki Leopold, Island Kids has been trying to get a lease for the space they’re in for months now, as a prerequisite for being able to apply for the program. She says it didn’t happen in time for them to be able to apply for UPK for the upcoming school year.
The Roosevelt Island Day Nursery
Roosevelt Island Day Nursery (RIDN) is confident they will be able to offer the program, yet they caution parents that it will not be official until the spring. According to school administrators, the DOE must approve and allocate a certain number of seats. Otherwise, because they have been a UPK provider in the past, they currently have the necessary Department of Health License and their Director and teachers have the required qualifications.
Pending DOE’s approval, the RIDN Board would then vote to determine whether to accept UPK funds. The school has stated that as much as they can, they would give currently enrolled RIDN children priority for any UPK spots they will be given for the 2016-2017 school year. They do add that if outside families are interested in this option, they should let the school know because the school must supply the DOE with a headcount.
Just like RIDN must supply a headcount to offer more spots at PS217, or anywhere else on the Island, the City needs a headcount and they will want verification that there will be “butts in the seats” that they will be funding.
To that end, DelCampo Perea is making a list of all Island children born in 2012 that she plans to send to all our governing authorities and the DOE. She wants to demonstrate what the demand is versus the number of seats we actually have. Currently, DelCampo Perea’s list has 63 names, almost double the amount of seats at PS217. She believes, however, that the list is not accurate and the correct number is higher because some parents have expressed to her that they do not want to release their child’s name.
To stress the importance of disclosing this information, DelCampo Perea shared the substance of a correspondence she had with Kallos’ office. She wrote, “I just got a call from Ben Kallos’ office, from an intern assigned to UPK, who doesn’t even know when the application period for UPK is, that RI is an Island and the time it takes to get to Manhattan, how many UPK seats we have,” culminating with, “[the intern] wants me to apply to daycare centers in Queens that have a lot of space!” Other parents have told similar stories, about being told about a facility in Ravenswood that’s “near where you live.”
Islanders are used to having to explain that there is actually a Main Street in Manhattan, and that people do live on this Island, and DelCampo Perea believes it is incumbent on us to keep explaining. According to her, if the DOE gets a list with a large number of names on it, they will make sure we have seats here. They added 18 seats for the current school year and at one point, there was discussion about adding more mid-year for the children born in 2011 in pre-K now.
She says, “Here's what we need to do, all of us, because this problem still exists since before last year and it won’t disappear like magic. Let's make some noise! Let’s call Fariña, email her and tell her how many we are and how much we need this! Let's do the same with Serrano and with the Mayor and with everyone.”
In an effort to reach all Islanders, DelCampo Perea has asked residents of all Island buildings to post a copy of a flyer she made which she had translated into Spanish, Korean, Chinese, French and Russian. It will probably also be posted on the kiosks.