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126 New Pre-K Seats Coming to Windsor Terrace and Park Slope

By Amy Zimmer | August 25, 2014 5:53pm | Updated on August 26, 2014 8:41am
 The 52-year-old Catholic high school closed in June and will reopen with seven sections of preschool.
The 52-year-old Catholic high school closed in June and will reopen with seven sections of preschool.
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Jim Henderson

BROOKLYN — The Department of Education is opening seven pre-K sections in Windsor Terrace's recently shuttered Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School, city officials announced Monday.

The 126 seats will be reserved for 4-year-olds living in Brooklyn's District 15, which stretches from Carroll Gardens and Park Slope to Sunset Park. When the seats were first unveiled, school officials said they would be filled on a first-come, first-served basis beginning Tuesday, but due to the "overwhelmingly positive response," they decided to host a random lottery for District 15 families.

Though the program will be located at 19th Street and Prospect Park West, lottery applications will be accepted a few blocks away at P.S. 10, at 511 Seventh Ave. near 17th Street. Parents can start applying on Tuesday, Aug. 26 and applications will be accepted through Sept. 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will also be evening and weekend hours at a location soon to be determined, school officials said.

Families will be notified of acceptance on Sept. 3.

While based in a former Catholic school, the program will be a public pre-K run by Department of Education staff. Laura Scott, the principal of the highly regarded P.S. 10, will supervise the new program at Bishop Ford.

"I know this news comes at a time when many families may be on vacation and others have already made plans for the fall in any case," the area's City Councilman Brad Lander wrote to constituents. "DOE has been working as fast as possible to make these additional seats available, and this will be good for the future for our district."

After Bishop Ford's closure — a result of a steep decline in enrollment and revenue — Windsor Terrace residents worried that condos would replace the building. Instead, it is being used as an early childhood education center, and as soon as families got wind of the announcement, P.S. 10 received a flood of inquires.

"We've been getting tons and tons of phone calls and emails," said Alison Koziel, who works in the administrative office of P.S. 10, which lost its pre-K program a few years ago as the rest of the school's numbers swelled.

"We know [pre-K] is much needed in the community," she added.

Joyce Szuflita, a Brooklyn schools admissions consultant who runs NYC School Help, applauded Mayor Bill de Blasio for the influx of seats, as he pushes for his goal of 50,000 full-day pre-K seats.  But she wondered if this would result in an exodus from private preschool programs with families walking away from deposits.

"This is a wonderful thing. This is a neighborhood where people are paying for private preschool at great expense," she said. "But what does it mean for private preschools? They already have more seats available [at this time of year] than normal."

When private programs have empty seats, they let Szuflita know and she posts the openings on her website and in her popular newsletter, she said.

There have been more openings than usual this year, especially at established programs.

"The list is very long," she noted.

For the DOE's new pre-K program at Bishop Ford, families must go to P.S. 10 at 511 Seventh Ave. from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and bring their child with them and two proofs of District 15 residence, 2010 birth certificate and vaccination card. The evening and weekend location will be announced soon. The school is a District 15-wide program and does not give priority to those living in P.S. 10's district. After pre-K, the student's assigned zoned will once again take priority for kindergarten.

Editor's note: this story was updated to reflect a change in the DOE's application process for the program from first-come, first-served to lottery.