City says Glendale preschool withdrew its universal pre-K contract and abruptly closed program (UPDATED)

Happily Ever After Daycare and Preschool on Myrtle Avenue in Glendale suddenly shut down their universal pre-K program last Friday which provided early learning to 30 children.

“As of Monday, Oct. 1, Happily Ever After is no longer offering Pre-K for All,” said Isabelle Boundy, assistant press secretary for the Department of Education (DOE), in an email to QNS on Oct. 1.

As of Tuesday night, the DOE stated in a follow-up email to QNS on Oct. 3, 25 of 31 UPK enrolled families have been connected to alternate sites within half a mile of Happily Ever After Daycare and Preschool and are following up with the remaining families.

DOE was in the process of approving Happily Ever After’s budget when the site notified us of their decision to withdraw from the program on Friday, Sept. 28. The site did not share any financial concerns related to their Pre-K for All contract, but expressed concerns about their privately funded program that they felt could not be addressed by support from the city. This contradicted claims made by sources on Monday about the reasons for the program’s abrupt closure.

The DOE also said that they work with any site that has financial concerns to ensure preschools can continue providing services and offered this support to Happily Ever After. The DOE spokesperson further indicated that Happily Ever After did not communicate any financial concerns or accept support from DOE before abruptly closing.

According to individuals familiar with the situation, parents of the 30 pre-kindergarteners at Happily Ever After only learned of the closure on the day that it happened.

In April of 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City would offer free, full-day preschool to all 3-year-olds within four years.

Making free, full-day prekindergarten available to all 4-year-olds was the most visible and ambitious promise that de Blasio made when he campaigned for mayor. In September 2014, full-day prekindergarten enrollment grew to 53,000 from 19,000 a year earlier. It reached 68,000 the next year.

This increase in publicly funded preschool programs in NYC paralleled the increase in free pre-K education across the nation. A 2016 report from the National Institute for Early Education Research, 43 states including the District of Columbia and Guam provide publicly funded preschool, serving about 1.5 million children in total. The cost that year for school spending was $7.4 billion.

Research conducted by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) shows children who attend preschool are healthier, develop better health behaviors, and are more likely to access health care of all kinds and receive better nutrition. Lower stress in early childhood has been linked to lower incidence of adult cardiac disease. Adults who attended strong preschool have been found to be less likely to smoke and engage in other behaviors that have high health risks.

Happily Ever After Preschool and Daycare has not responded to a request for comment from QNS. The school’s nursery and regular day care programs were not affected by the UPK closure.

Robert Pozarycki contributed to this report.