Roosevelt Island Day Nursery (RIDN) will be a full-day UPK [Universal Pre-K] provider next year. "Children with a 2012 date of birth are eligible to attend school at RIDN 8:40 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday-Friday, for free, during the 2016-2017 school year,” RIDN Director Pamela Stark said via email on the Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network (RIPN) early Monday morning. Eva Bosbach, RIPN Coordinator, said, “It is fantastic news that Roosevelt Island is getting 50 additional UPK seats, making it a total of 86 UPK seats available to our families starting this September!”
For the last couple of years, most families of local rising preschoolers have received letters from the Department of Education (DOE) informing them that their child was not accepted to PS 217, and instead was offered a seat in a school multiple train and bus rides away. (The DOE does not provide bus service for children in Pre-K). Last year the DOE added another Pre-K class, and the Island offered 36 Pre-K seats, up from 18. Yet, the waitlist still surpassed 100. With more apartments on the Island, and a baby boom, these seats have been in very high demand in recent years.
According to Bosbach, “For more than a year members of the Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network including Nisha Nihan, Danielle Goldblatt, Josie Chamla, Susy del Campo Perea Heart Sugiyama, Kaja Meade and myself teamed up in an effort to get more local UPK seats for our children.” These parents petitioned the DOE and Councilman Kallos for more seats by asking the parent community to make phone calls and send emails. Unfortunately, those efforts occurred too late in the game to accommodate last year’s 120 preschoolers in need of a seat.
Before the first round of UPK applications this school year, Susy del Campo Perea, the mother of an incoming preschooler, started comprising a new list in earnest, including the names of all children born in 2012 that needed a local Pre-K seat. Her intent was to send that list along with a letter, consolidating all of the information about our community need, to DOE Chancellor Fariña and our elected officials. According to Perea, “It was a very hard task that took a little over two months to accomplish.”
Fortunately, Perea had help. She cites a local Japanese parent (who wishes to by anonymous) who reached out to the Island’s growing Japanese community as well as assisting Perea in reaching every parent and caregiver with a three year old child. Together, they created a flyer in Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian and posted it in every building.
Ultimately a list was collected that was over 70 names deep and a letter was written and distributed to Chancellor Fariña, Senator Serrano, Councilman Kallos, Assembly Member Seawright, and Mayor DiBlasio. And Perea received answers. She heard back from the DOE’s UPK director, Kallos staff member Debbie Lightbody, and Eric Rivera from Serrano’s office. They finally got it. As Perea explains, “All of them were now aware of the lack of seats on Roosevelt Island, how organized we are, and how many kids need a seat this year.”
50 More Seats
On May 2, RIDN shared the good news. They were awarded 50 seats. Perea said of the effort, “You got on the Universal Pre-K (UPK) list and we got you the seats: 50 more UPK seats at RIDN,” acknowledging “all the hard work of [RIDN’s] Board of Directors, staff, Ms. Pamela Stark.”
Stark notes that “current RIDN families with age-eligible children who choose RIDN as their first choice UPK program in the DOE’s online registration system will be given priority enrollment to RIDN’s Pre-K Program.”
Stark is offering upcoming tours for new parents to see the school:
• Wednesday May 11, 8:30-9:30 a.m.
• Tuesday May 17, 8:30-9:30 a.m.
Stark said that, “RIDN is thrilled to be able to further meet the needs of the community by offering new full-day UPK classes starting September, 2016. We thank Council Member Kallos’s office and the Department of Education for their support during the approval process.” Bosbach echoes Stark’s gratitude and also thanks Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, Senator Jose Serrano, and RIDN Director Pamela Stark, explaining, “Having a sufficient number of UPK seats on Roosevelt Island strengthens our commitment to the international, diverse, mixed income island neighborhood, a community that is welcoming to all.”