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Schools chancellor pushes pre-K in local-based centers

By Juan Soto

City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña wants to make sure every parent in every neighborhood in the city knows about the city Department of Education’s initiatives, especially the free pre-kindergarten program being offered at community-based organizations.

She said thousands of pre-K seats are still available, and she encouraged parents to apply for them.

Fariña, along with her top aides, participated in a roundtable discussion with dozens of reporters from community and ethnic newspapers. The event was held Wednesday at the DOE’s headquarters at 52 Chambers St. in Manhattan.

“We need your help because local newspapers walked into people’s homes,” she said during the discussion, organized by the Center of Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY Graduate Center.

As more buildings throughout the city are becoming early childhood centers, the chancellor pledged that the kids will be safe in their new environment. “Every school has to be good enough for my grandchildren, and if it isn’t, the school is not good enough for anybody else’s grandchildren” she added. “Nothing is more important than safety.

Fariña said the DOE, in collaboration with several city agencies, including the city Buildings and Fire departments and city Administration for Children’s Services, makes inspections in every school.

“No center will open on Sept. 4 if they don’t meet the safety criteria,” she said. “I don’t want to lose one child.”

Josh Wallack, chief DOE strategy officer, said that part of the focus for the pre-K policy will address the needs of English language learners.

“We have put a huge focus on teaching teachers how to work with children that are English language learners,” he added. “A huge percentage of kids in pre-K are English language learners and we want to help them.”

According to the DOE, children who attend school in New York City speak over 160 languages.

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at jsoto@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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