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Most pre-K seats are full one week before the start of school, city says

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that 95 percent of the 53,000 pre-k seats are filled, one week from the start of classes.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that 95 percent of the 53,000 pre-k seats are filled, one week from the start of classes.
Jessica Glazer

The city has enrolled 95 percent of its target of 53,000 four-year-olds in full-day pre-kindergarten, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

With one week left before the start of school, it was a declaration of near-victory in a hard-fought enrollment battle. Since de Blasio secured $300 million from the state to dramatically expand full-day pre-K by about 33,000 seats, the city has made a major push to sign up students for the seats it created, including sending outreach workers to parades and parks to find four-year-olds, and setting up an enrollment hotline.

The city has enrolled 50,407 children to date, de Blasio said, and he expects that all 53,000 spots across 1,100 sites will be filled by October 1. Last year, 20,000 children attended full-day pre-K.

“We will have the largest number of children in full day pre-K in the history to New York City, starting this Thursday,” de Blasio said. He noted that access to quality education early on helps students stay at grade level and graduate on time.

The announcement, made in the shaded playground of P.S. 307 in Brooklyn, was also a counterpoint to a Wednesday report from Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office, saying that 70 percent of the city’s 500 pre-K contracts have yet to be vetted by his office, potentially jeopardizing student safety.

De Blasio, flanked by Chancellor Carmen Fariña, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Council members, and commissioners from various city departments, hit back. Just because the comptroller’s office has not seen all of the contracts does not mean that the providers are unsafe, he said, noting that members of a task force from various city agencies have been inspecting every pre-K site and addressing violations swiftly.

If any of those sites’ violations are not “completely and permanently addressed,” the mayor said, the city is prepared to drop those providers and work with families on placing their children elsewhere.

“We’ll close a site if we don’t feel comfortable that it’s up to our standards,” de Blasio said.

Across all 1,100 sites, officials said that five still have health and safety violations requiring immediate attention, down from 12 last week.

Although the deadline for community-based organizations to report enrollment numbers isn’t until Oct. 1, the city has been in touch with the organizations to keep track of the count.

Rebecca Bonano, the director of the universal pre-K program at Fabiana Day Care Academy in the Bronx, said her site has reached capacity with 21 kids enrolled. Officials have been calling her all summer to make sure everything is running smoothly in advance of the Academy’s first year offering pre-K, she said.

“They have been very helpful. When I got to capacity I let them know,” Bonano said. “We expect all the kids to be there.”

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