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BY JOSH ROGERS | The citywide expansion of full day pre-K this September announced last week will be modest in Lower Manhattan, where Chinatown is the only neighborhood slated to get more space.
“Obviously we are very disappointed… that not one new seat was created in Tribeca, Peck Slip School, in the South Street Seaport in Battery Park City and in FiDi,” said Amanda Byron Zink, a Downtown parent.
“We are happy for our Chinatown neighborhood, but it doesn’t really fulfill a need here in Lower Manhattan.”
Zink, a Seaport resident whose oldest son attends Peck Slip, said she was hoping there would be a slot somewhere closer to home for her younger son.
She understands the school space crisis Downtown, but said she thought there was still room to expand the number of classrooms at the Dept. of Education’s Tweed headquarters, as well as at some Lower Manhattan museums and other spaces.
Even Paul Hovitz, co-chairperson of Community Board 1’s Education Committee, which has been concerned the pre-K push would crowd out the need for kindergarten space, said he thought there should be more pre-K space made available in a few parts of Lower Manhattan such as at Tweed, which is Peck Slip’s temporary home.
“We’re actually losing pre-K space in Lower Manhattan,” Hovitz added, pointing to the loss of pre-K next year at Peck Slip and Battery Park City’s P.S. 276.
In Chinatown, the reaction to the city’s announcement was naturally more positive.
Alice Hom, principal of P.S. 124, which is adding one pre-K class, told Downtown Express — “We are putting the word out. It seems parents are interested.”
She said her school has been under-enrolled for two years, so she welcomed the expansion from two to three pre-K classrooms.
In addition to P.S. 124 at 40 Division St., the other Chinatown schools getting one more pre-K classroom are P.S. 1 at 8 Henry St. and P.S. 130 at 143 Baxter St.
Each room will have 18 students, bringing the expansion to 54 students in Lower Manhattan, although more could be added to community-based organizations or C.B.O.’s in May.
Mayor Bill de Blasio had visited P.S. 130 earlier this year to highlight his push to expand the number of full-day pre-K programs this September, so it was probably the only school expected to be on the expanded list, which includes over 4,000 new seats across the city.
“For months, we have been planning every facet of these programs to ensure we were ready to launch the moment funding was secured,” de Blasio said in a statement, April 2. “Today, the rubber hits the road, and families will have more options for their children.”
“For decades, families have clamored for more high quality full-day pre-K seats in their communities,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in the same press release. “Today, this becomes reality. Families are eager, teachers are ready, and we have an unprecedented commitment that will ensure the highest quality pre-K that every 4-year-old so deeply deserves.”
Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Silver also spent time with pre-K students at P.S. 1 on April 3, the day after the announcement.
The expansion was made possible with this year’s state budget, which provides about $300 million more for the city.
Prior to the budget agreement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had been skeptical that the city could expand pre-K so quickly, but as it turned out, the city could have easily expanded in more places particularly in new school buildings in School District 2, wich covers a large part of Manhattan including almost all of Downtown.
“Notably the proposed [Universal Pre-K] seats in Manhattan appear not to adequately align where the demand is highest,” Gale Brewer, the borough president, wrote in a letter to the mayor last week.
Brewer, who supports the mayor’s expansion, said there are school buildings in District 2 and 3 that should be considered.
The pre-K applications are due April 23.