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UPK Program Short 'Hundreds' of Seats in Parts of Queens, Councilwoman Says

By Katie Honan | February 20, 2015 7:46am
 Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras urged centers throughout her district to come forward if they have space for UPK seats. 
Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras urged centers throughout her district to come forward if they have space for UPK seats. 
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CORONA — The Department of Education is short "hundreds" of universal pre-k seats for the next school year in Corona and Jackson Heights and has asked a local politician for help in finding space, she said.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras said in her State of the District speech on Feb. 18 that the DOE needed to find space for hundreds of kids who will start universal pre-k in September.

She urged "non-traditional" spaces and nonprofits to come forward if they have accommodations that can be made available for the program.

District 24, which encompasses parts of Corona, Elmhurst, Ridgewood and Middle Village, is the most overcrowded in the city.

Last June, 70 percent of applicants in the district were denied their first choice of programs and kids were waitlisted for other programs as more seats opened up.

It was not clear how many kids attended the program in District 24 or how many were unable to attend UPK.

The city rolled out its universal pre-k program in September and 53,000 students enrolled.

Sixty percent of UPK seats last year were in New York City Early Education Centers — formerly known as "community-based organizations" — and the rest were in public schools, a DOE official said.

The DOE would not say how many seats they needed and said they would have a clearer idea of the need once applications were filled out in the spring. 

The "open period" to apply for pre-k seats starts in March, according to the DOE.

In the meantime, they are reaching out to people in the community to identify potential space.

“We are working closely with elected officials, community leaders, early education providers, charter schools and district schools as we expand to offer free, full-day, high quality pre-k to every eligible 4-year-old," DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye said.

"We are listening to our partners to assess demand in advance of spring — when families will begin to enroll in pre-k programs across every neighborhood in the city — and we are taking feedback seriously. We have a goal and we are confident we will meet it.”

Ferreras said she's worked to find room for affordable housing and more schools in the district, despite obstacles, and will continue to work to make sure there are enough UPK seats. 

"Allowing my constituents to take advantage of the essential UPK programs the mayor delivered to our city is at the crux of my work," she said.

"I am intent on having all our education needs met right here in our district from UPK to higher education."