After the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) approved 10,000 new full-day prekindergarten seats at community-based organizations like the A to Z center, dozens more like it across the city will also see significantly more spaces.
“It’s very important for children to come to school,” Afonso said. “That’s where they have their foundation, that’s where they learn and be successful individuals as they grow up. So they really need to start from early on. I’m a teacher myself so I know the importance of this.”
In addition to the early education instruction, she added that the prekindergarten classes would help more parents like herself also work a full-time job.
“With the full-day UPK, parents can go to work and know and have a sense of accomplishment and be secure that their children will be safe in here,” she said.
The A to Z Center will now go from 20 to 74 full-day seats, and Mayor bill de Blasio announced last week that more than 5,400 of the 10,000 additions to the program will be in low-income communities.
Jamaica and Flushing were both approved for over 500 new spaces each beginning this fall.
“In some of the neighborhoods that have the greatest need you’re going to see extraordinary numbers of seats coming to fruition,” de Blasio said during a visit to the A to Z Center.
The additional seats now brings the current total to 25,000 total full-day prekindergarten spots across the city.
The de Blasio administration previously announced a $600,000 spending campaign to spread the word through radio, Internet and other advertising avenues.
“People have the right to apply, and parents have the right to apply to multiple centers,” he said. “That’s absolutely fine. Apply to the public school if they had done that before April 23, but they can apply to as many centers as may be pertinent.”
Parents are asked to visit nyc.gov/prek, call 311 for a full directory, or text “prek” to 877877 for more information on how to enroll in a community-based center by the June 26th deadline.
Public Advocate Letitia James said she was pleased to see the administration take a deeper look into the disparity in underserved communities when it comes to distributing prekindergarten in the city.
“Universal pre-k is a family issue,” James said. “Access to quality pre-k and head start programs eases economic stress on middle-class parents and families who might otherwise pay thousands of dollars for such a program.”
She added that the program is also important to address the nearly 20,000 children currently in the city’s homeless system.
“They miss an average of 31 days of school each term, perform lower on tests, and are more likely to repeat grades,” she said. “They need a head start, and we need to provide them one.”