De Blasio Administration Releases 4,500 Half-Day Pre-K Slots

NEW YORK -

Keeping to a promise made to Orthodox groups last year, the de Blasio administration late Tuesday announced that 4,500 half-day prekindergarten slots — a category particularly used by yeshivos — would be made available for the upcoming school year.

Although Jewish groups applauded the announcement, there was some grumbling that it was released so late; most yeshivos are starting within two weeks.

“It’s certainly a tremendous amount of work in a very short period of time to get this started,” noted one yeshivah administrator who runs a full-day pre-K program. He suggested that yeshivos running half-day programs may need to have a delayed school-year start.

Of all the yeshivos who applied to run a half-day program, almost all have been awarded slots.

The pre-K awards mean that yeshivos are allowed to set up programs based on the number of slots allotted. Now, parents of four-year-old children — regardless of income — can apply and register for a slot.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s premier achievement is his UPK — the universal prekindergarten program available free to all New Yorkers. Some of the classes are in public schools, while many are in community-based organizations such as yeshivos.

Most yeshivos have expressed concerns with the full-day program, described as 6 hours and 20 minutes of teaching and 40 minutes of teacher preparation. They preferred the half-day program, which pays less money but runs for only 2-and-a-half hours. Only 12 percent of yeshivos ended up with full-day programs last year.

De Blasio has held out for yeshivos to join the full program, easing some of the terms, such as permitting time off for davening and brachos and allowing time to make up for short Fridays. However, in a meeting held with Jewish groups last year, he agreed to award half-day slots as well. A Request for Proposals went out during the winter, and on Tuesday the number of slots awarded was announced.

Many yeshivos who held back from full-day programs will be joining this year. Two rounds of slot awards were already announced; the third and final round will be released by next week.