QUEENS — Thousands of new full-day pre-K seats will launch this fall as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's major expansion of the free early-childhood education program, officials announced Wednesday.
The city will add 4,268 full-day pre-K seats in dozens of schools across the five boroughs, 26 percent more full-day seats than the current school year, de Blasio said. The expansion will create new pre-K programs in some schools, while allowing other schools to expand their existing pre-K programs or convert half-day pre-K seats to full-day spots.
"Today, we are more than 4,000 seats closer to ensuring that every 4-year-old has access to high-quality full-day pre-K," de Blasio said in a statement. “For months, we have been planning every facet of these programs to ensure we were ready to launch the moment funding was secured. Today, the rubber hits the road, and families will have more options for their children."
Wednesday's announcement came shortly after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers announced that Albany would provide $300 million per year for the next five years to fund universal pre-K.
That funding will allow de Blasio to meet his target of expanding the free pre-K classes to serve about 53,000 4-year-olds by the fall of 2014, officials said.
"The exciting part now is that with even more full day options, a lot of parents who in the past may have put an option down and not gotten it because there were too limited a number of full-day seats, now will have an even greater opportunity," said Sophia Pappas, the executive director of early childhood education at the Department of Education, during a Wednesday press conference announcing the new seats at Police Officer Ramon Suarez School in Queens.
Even more seats will be made available soon, when a list of community-based organizations with additional pre-K spots is released in May or June, officials said. Parents will need to apply to those programs separately from the ones in public schools.
One of the 140 elementary schools getting new pre-K seats is P.S. 116 on East 33rd Street in Manhattan, which lost its program several years ago because of overcrowding but will now offer 36 full-day pre-K spots in the fall.
“This is major for the neighborhood,” said Marlowe Bamberger, chair of the PTA at P.S. 116.
Pre-K applications for public schools are available online and by phone at 718-935-2009. Parents can also text "prek" to 877877. Applications are due April 23, and parents can list up to 12 options, with children given priority at schools close to home. All children who will turn 4 years old in 2014 are eligible to apply.
With reporting by Heather Holland