NYC DOE cancels 105 pre-K programs, leaving parents in the lurch

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The Department of Education has canceled 105 community pre-kindergarten schools that applied to continue programs this fall, The Post has learned.

That’s 11 percent of the 997 current sites serving families citywide.

The Brooklyn Archdiocese, which will be forced to close pre-K programs at three Catholic schools in Queens and two in Brooklyn, sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza last week protesting the decisions.

 “It is inconceivable that successful, long-term programs hang in the balance and that families will once again have to try to find suitable options for their children” wrote schools Superintendent Thomas Chadzutko.

The city’s $1 billion-plus universal pre-K program, free to all parents, is considered de Blasio’s signature achievement.  

DOE letters rejecting the applications do not specify reasons, saying only: “Your proposed site location was not selected because the need for services in this area was met by proposals that received higher quality scores.”

The diocese has received no response to its appeals and requests for a more thorough evaluation, Chadzutko wrote. 

Cathryn Sanchez, who has two children in first and third grades at St. Joseph Catholic Academy in Long Island City, hoped to enroll her youngest, who turns four in June, in the school’s pre-K program.

“To throw this at parents in the middle of a pandemic causes additional stress on top of everything else going on,” Sanchez told The Post. “It’s very hard for parents who already have children invested in the academy, forged friendships and built educational communities.”

Sanchez will have to juggle dropping off and picking up kids from different schools while her husband is at work, she said.

Her two older kids attended pre-K at St. Joseph and “came out knowing more than the New York standards required them to know,” Sanchez said, citing numbers, the alphabet and how to write their full names. Books are read aloud daily, she added.

“It’s an excellent program,” said fellow mom Tonia Vailas, whose daughter is currently in St. Joseph’s pre-K program, following her son, now in second grade. 

“My daughter knows how to count and do basic addition,” Vailas said. “The teachers are loving.”

The school also offers in-person classes, five days a week, as well as remote or mixed schedules.

“Even during COVID, she’s in full-time,” Vailas said of her four-year-old. “Since September, she has not missed a day of school,”

Another Catholic school rejected by the DOE, Sacred Heart Academy in Glendale, serves 75 kids and has a waiting list, said Queens City Councilman Robert Holden.

“Arbitrarily canceling popular and successful private school pre-K programs is another example of Chancellor Carranza’s warped socialist agenda of gaining total control of our children’s education as early as possible,” Holden said. “I’m automatically suspicious of his purposely vague edicts.”

The five Brooklyn diocese schools with pre-K canceled by the DOE had a total 252 contracted seats. The other three are Sacred Heart in Bayside, St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy in Greenpoint, and St. Catherine – St. Terese Catholic Academy in Flatbush.

T.J. McCormack, a spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, which runs schools in Manhattan and the Bronx, said all its proposals for pre-K and 3-k programs to begin in July 2021 “have advanced to the next stage of the approval process.” 

The DOE said every pre-K program had to re-apply for the 2021-22 school year. Nearly 700 organizations offering close to 60,000 seats for children from birth to age five received contracts, said spokeswoman Sarah Casasnovas.

“This was a very competitive contract process, and many high-quality, experienced providers applied. In some communities, there were more high-quality proposals than there are seats for DOE to award,” she said.

The DOE used a team of 100-plus early childhood experts to evaluate proposals, she added. “Whether a program is housed in a Catholic school would not factor into whether they received an award.”

The DOE would not say which Pre-K schools, public or private, would replace St. Joseph’s or other canceled programs. 

“Queens and Brooklyn families will continue to have strong access to early childhood opportunities, including a free, full-day, high-quality pre-K seat for every 4-year-old,” Casasnovas said. “When the pre-K application opens for the 2021-22 school year, families will be able to explore all available options in their community.”

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