UPK reaches all of borough communities

Universal pre-kindergarten is available for all Bronxites and all New Yorkers, and some parents in the borough’s outlying areas are breathing a sigh of relief that seats are being included in their communities.

After expanding UPK again this year, Mayor de Blasio’s office reported that 3,785 applications were available for borough kids who are four on the first day they were accepted.

Applications to the programs are being taken until Friday, April 24, and are not done on a first come, first serve basis.

The programs are run at locations borough-wide. In some of the borough’s more remote corners, including Woodlawn, and especially on geographically isolated City Island, there was jubilation from local civic leaders after the list of available programs included those run in their community.

This development comes after advocacy from elected officials, including Senator Jeff Klein and Councilman James Vacca, for programs on City Island and Woodlawn.

In City Island’s case, Councilman Vacca said that he has worked for the past one and a half years to get a public pre-k program on the island, and that this expansion was necessary for parents there for logistical purposes.

“I think many parents would have found it impossible (to transport their kids), and that would have meant that some children would not have enjoyed the benefits of pre-k,” he said, noting the geographic isolation of the island made alternatives more difficult.

On the island, recent Williamsburg, Brooklyn transplant Beverly Jones was thrilled that her three-year-old son would be able to go to school with children in his community for an extra year.

“One of the things that drew us to City Island was that it was a close knit for community with great educational options,” she said, adding “We are just happy that the opportunity to be part of a educational community is available for nine or ten years.”

If a pre-k program was not available on the island, she would either have to go off the island or pay to send her son to day-care, which can be costly, she said.

The City Island Civic Association had advocated for a UPK program on the island. The organization’s vice-president Barbara Dolensek said that the its corresponding secretary, John Doyle, led the civic’s advocacy efforts. The island program will be known as the Holy Rosary Early Childhood at St. Mary Star of the Sea, and should contain about 30 seats, sources said.

Doyle said that he thought many people in the seaside community would appreciate the former school building being returned to its original use, whether or not they have children. For parents, the new seats can potentially save tens of thousands of dollars in child-care costs, he said.

“We are city residents like anyone else and we are entitled to the same services as any other city resident,” said Doyle, adding that it was necessary to keep raising awareness on this because the island has a relatively low population and is sometimes overlooked.

On the legislative front, Senator Klein helped Mayor de Blasio pass the state law guaranteeing pre-k, a spokeswoman said. She added that Klein advocated to for both the City Island program and one at St. Barnabas in Woodlawn that got approval to operate as well.

“By ensuring our youngest students have access to a high-quality education, we are investing in a brighter future for all New Yorkers,” said Klein, adding “I commend the City Island Civic Association, Archdiocese of New York, Women of Woodlawn, the Woodlawn Taxpayers and countless parents and teachers whose tireless advocacy efforts helped push this issue forward.”

To register for UPK, visit that: schools.nyc.gov/ChoicesEnrollment/PreK/default.htm.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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