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THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman
THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman
Lorenzo Barrios lines up outside P.S. 234 in Astoria for his first day of pre-kindergarten earlier this year.

Parents looking to enroll their tiny tots in a free education program have until the end of the month to do so.

Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) programs throughout the five boroughs still have several thousand seats left to be filled, according to city leaders.

The program, hosted by a select group of local public schools and community-based organizations, offers at least two-and-a-half hours of educational services at no cost to city kids born in 2008. Eligible early childhood providers have until October 31 to submit applications to the State Education Department.

“It is never too early to think about college and career readiness,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, “and high-quality prekindergarten options set our children on that path.”

According to the city’s Department of Education, third grade students who had attended UPK were 28 percent more likely to score proficiently on the state’s English exam, and 54 percent more likely to make the grade on the state’s math exam, compared to peers who did not attend pre-k.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn also touted the program’s success, saying toddlers who receive early education are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to drop out or repeat a grade.

“The most powerful thing we can do, as a city, to show our commitment to our children’s and the city’s future is make sure that every child who is eligible to attend universal pre-kindergarten programs enrolls,” she said.

The Flushing YMCA is among the scores of organizations that still have program vacancies. Officials say there are currently 12 spots open.

To find a UPK program that may still have availability for the 2012-2013 school year, call 3-1-1 or visit schools.nyc.gov/prek.

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