Free Pre-K With Dance Classes and Field Trips Comes to Jamaica

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on August 26, 2014 9:06am 

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 The soon-to-be-open program on Sutphin Boulevard will offer 44 full-day pre-K seats.
New Program to Expand Pre-K Options For Families in Jamaica
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QUEENS — A universal pre-K program will offer free education to 44 children in Jamaica — including many from struggling families — with classes including musical storytelling and a host of field trips, officials said.

The program, which is set to open in September at Sandra’s Sunflower Child Care, at 90-16 Sutphin Blvd., is part of an initiative by the de Blasio administration to offer 10,000 new pre-K seats in privately-run early childhood centers this fall.

About 120 people have already inquired about the free pre-K program, organizers said, adding that all of the available seats have already been filled.

Parents interested in enrolling their kids in the program for the 2015-'16 school year should ask about the availability of seats now, owner Glendora Kennedy said.

Kennedy said that the program is especially crucial in the area because of the number of families who live in poverty, including some who reside in homeless shelters.

“I think having the [free] UPK [universal prekindergarten program] is a blessing, because now I can truly offer the program to people who really need the service,” said Kennedy, a 56-year-old former real estate broker, who started her child care center in 2005.

This is the first year the center added a free pre-K program to its offerings after contracting with the Department of Education, Kennedy said. They have offered pre-K in the past, but for a fee.

She noted that about 45 percent of the kids listed in the new pre-K program are from low-income families.

Her goal when she opened the facility, which also offers paid programs for infants, 2- and 3-year-olds and after-school activities, was to honor her late sister Sandra, who worked as a teacher and dreamed about helping kids by running a day care center, she said.

But Kennedy said she realized that it's not only children, but also their parents, who need services.

So she teamed up with several nonprofits, including Allen Community Services, Goodwill and Catholic Charities, referring parents to them if they need assistance or counseling.

“The child is affected when you have a parent that has all these issues going on,” she said.

The pre-K program at Sandra’s Sunflower Child Care, Kennedy said, will offer a variety of activities, including musical storytelling, Spanish language and dancing. She said she is also planning to take kids on many field trips.

“These community-based early childhood centers provide free full-day pre-K [program] to children across the city and they follow the same high standards [and] curriculum as public schools,” said Harry Hartfield, a spokesman for the DOE.

Sandra’s Sunflower Child Care will offer free UPK program from 8 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. Children will be served free breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack. The center is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to accommodate the needs of parents who work.

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