“Jackson Heights is a kid-rich neighborhood,” said Mary Maisano, business manager of The Garden School in Jackson Heights. “We have a waiting list of people from the neighborhood who are looking for spots in the pre-K program. We already started accepting application and taking in contacts for next September. So once the class is filled up it is filled up.”
Similar to the Garden School, other community-based pre-K programs have limited seats to offer kids. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has called for the city to offer more pre-K programs.
A report released by his office shows that after Manhattan, Queens has the greatest shortage of any borough, with five applicants for every available seat, Additionally, only 50 percent of school-based pre-K seats in Queens are full-day.
“The shortage of high-quality, full-time pre-K seats is hurting thousands of families in every borough,” said de Blasio. “We cannot continue to be a city where only a fraction of our kids has access to early education, and where working parents have to roll the dice every year and hope they’re lucky enough to secure a seat.”
Richard Marotta, headmaster at The Garden School, said the pre-K shortage is a community problem.
“I wish we had a few more rooms to make pre-K available for the community,” Marotta said. “But it does require fixing up a room to meet the standards the city established.”
After waiting for three months, Arufa Akter Lily admitted her four-year-old daughter Fahmida Lupa in the Rainbowland Nursery School in Jackson Heights. Even though pre-K class don't start until September, Lily did not take any chance.
“I started contacting the school last year,” said Lily. “If I missed one day, I would probably lose the seat. It is really tough to get a kid in Pre-K.”
Of the 68,000 children eligible for full-day pre-K in New York City, only 20,000 receive it. The rest receive no early education at all, or a short three hours that don’t suffice for working parents, according to the public advocate's report.
The city is required by law to provide a space in Kindergarten for a child, but not a spot in a pre-K program.
“I would like to see the city make early childhood education more easily available to parents,” said Marotta.