Through an award from the New York City Department of Education, the Y Early Childhood Department is excited to be able to offer full-day, tuition-free Pre-K for All for four-year-olds beginning in the 2017-18 school year! This award was made possible through the efforts of many of our neighborhood families in partnership with the staff at the Y who worked together to meet a growing community need for high-quality pre-kindergarten programming.
For the last fifteen years, the Y Nursery School’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten program — the DOE has changed the name of this program from UPK to Pre-K for All — was a half-day afternoon class from 1 – 3:30 pm that was incorporated into a full-day schedule or was available as a stand-alone program. Although a recent expansion of full-day UPK was implemented through funding from the New York State Legislature, many families in the Washington Heights and Inwood areas who needed tuition-free, full-day programming were unable to find enough quality programs. As a result, earlier this year, families began a campaign to convert the Y’s half-day UPK spaces to full-day spaces.
Through an amazing and persistent effort that involved many phone calls and emails to decision-makers at the DOE and to our local politicians, as well as a letter-writing campaign, families were able to schedule a meeting at the Y with members of the DOE’s early childhood expansion team. At the meeting, parents of prospective four-year-olds worked to describe the community’s needs and how the Y would be able to meet those needs through the continued implementation of best practices for early childhood education. A power-point slide show developed by the parents provided statistical evidence and demonstrated need for quality programming in our neighborhood. The meeting ended with a neighborhood walk with the DOE team so that they would be more familiar with the lay-out of our community.
Following this persuasive meeting, in March of this year, the DOE agreed to allow the Y to apply for full-day Pre-K for All through a competitive process that involved a comprehensive written proposal and an on-site interview. As a result of this process, the Y was finally awarded 54 full-day seats and was able to allow families to apply in round-2 of the DOE admissions process. As per DOE priorities for admission, our currently enrolled families were given preference for Pre-K for All seats.
We are looking forward to the upcoming school year where we will be continuing to provide a warm and nurturing preschool program for all of our children, ages two through five, a program where teachers develop rich and creative units of study based on the students’ interests and where the arts are infused into the curriculum.
By Susan Herman, Director of Early Childhood Services