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Longtime Inwood Pre-K May Lose Funding as City Backs Off Half-Day Programs

 The Nagle Avenue Y may lose city funding for its half-day pre-K program this year.
Nagle Avenue Y
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INWOOD — A pre-school program that has served local kids for more than a half-century is in danger of losing funding due to a shift in the city’s universal pre-K initiative under Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The YM and YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood on Nagle Avenue, which has offered pre-school since the early 1950s, received city funding for the past 12 years to provide a free half-day pre-K program to about 60 local children.

Under the mayor’s revamped pre-K initiative, which favors full-day over half-day programs, the Y’s pre-K was informed it would lose its funding prior to the city announcing it would fund a limited number of programs.

Susan Herman, director of early childhood services at the Y, said that the organization’s current universal pre-K contract with the city, which has funded the program for the past five years, ends in June.

The Y was told by the Department of Education that it would not receive an automatic extension and that it would have to apply for a new contract, Herman said.

“They urged us to apply for the full-day program,” Herman said. “When we didn’t, they just said, ‘The program is closed.’”

Herman said no one from the DOE contacted the Y to tell them they wouldn’t receive funding. Instead, the city published an addendum to its pre-K guide in March that listed the Y’s program as closed, prompting concerned calls from parents who had planned to enroll their children at the site.

“I was really upset because the families saw this and it almost looked like we had done something wrong with the way it was worded,” she explained.

Herman said that the Y made a decision to apply for the half-day program in part because that’s what many parents said they wanted.

“Some children are ready to do a full day and others are not quite ready,” she said. “That’s what many families were telling us, or they say, ‘I’m home in the morning and I want to spend that time with my child.’”

Some parents and education advocates have criticized the mayor’s universal pre-K initiative for emphasizing full-day over half-day programs.

Last year, 53,000 full-day pre-K seats were made available while only 12,000 half-day spots were offered. This year, the number of half-day seats is expected to decline as many of those programs are converted to full-day.

The administration would not provide numbers on how many half-day seats would be funded for the coming school year. However, Richard Buery, deputy mayor for strategic policy initiatives, described the number as "modest" last week, the mayor's office said.

De Blasio's spokesman Wiley Norvell said the administration would continue to focus on expanding full-day pre-K.

“The educational and economic case for full-day pre-K is overwhelming, and clearly, it’s what working parents across the city are demanding the most, with nearly 70,000 families having applied so far,” Norvell said.

In the case of the Y, the potential loss of funding could also impact families who want their children to attend a full-day pre-k.  

The Y offers a tuition-based pre-K class in the morning and another half-day class in the afternoon, which is fully funded through city's universal pre-k program. In the past, students who are ready for a full-day program could stay for the afternoon class without considerably increasing the cost of their tuition because of the city funds.

Brandy Wood, 43, has twins who attend the full-day pre-K program at the Y.

"I’m happy we’re not part of the [forthcoming] shakeup year," she said. "With twins, it would not have been viable for us to do the full-day program without the support from the city."

The mayor’s office announced on May 1 that it would solicit additional proposals for a limited number of half-day seats, giving pre-K providers only three weeks notice to file the extensive application.

Herman said the Y plans to submit a proposal. However, they will not know if they have received funding until June, leaving both the school and parents in limbo.

“Many, many families have been asking us about it,” Herman said. “They want to come to the Y, but they don’t know if we’re going to have a program. It’s tough.”