The agency has opened up about 600 new full-day seats for pre-kindergartners in District 8, which covers Bronx neighborhoods like Longwood, Hunts Point and Soundview. This represents a roughly 40 percent jump from the amount of available seats last year and is one of the largest increases in the city, according to the DOE.
"We felt we would have more demand than we had seats," said Josh Wallack, the DOE's deputy chancellor for strategy and policy. "We set about this year to fix that, and based on our projections, we got there."
The city decided to add pre-k seats in the South Bronx after asking principals, community leaders and parent leaders to assess available space in district schools and by approving additional providers. District 8 should have roughly 2,400 pre-k seats next year overall.
Officials hope to have full-day — 6 hours, 20 minutes — pre-k seats available for every family that wants them throughout the city this fall but are still working toward that goal, particularly in commonly overcrowded areas like Southern Brooklyn and Western Queens.
"Those are places where we’re also seeing a lot of families interested in pre-k and, not surprisingly, where we’re still in a hunt for space," Wallack said.
Jessica Anderson, director of Kiderific, described the extra seats as good for both the children and their parents, particularly those families where both parents work.
"Most of our parents want full-day," she said. "Half-day is just not enough anymore."
James Williams, whose son is enrolled in pre-k this year at P.S. 36, said he was very pleased with the program and was happy that more families would be able to take part in it next year.
He knew his son was benefiting from the schooling when he came home one day and used a vocabulary word that he probably didn't learn from his parents, Williams said.
"I believe it was ‘excellent.’ It could have been ‘awesome,’" he said. "We don’t normally use that particular language in the household, so it was a surprise when he said it."
"We’re a working class community," he continued, "so to have a place where your child is safe — productive — while you can provide for your family is a beautiful thing."
For a full list of pre-k changes, check out the DOE's updated pre-k guide.