• December 18, 2014
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Queens Chronicle

Is this another kink in the rollout of UPK?

Late applicants may get distant locations

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Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:50 am, Thu Sep 4, 2014.

Brian O’Toole of Long Island City is frustrated.

His efforts to enroll his daughter in a prekindergarten class at PS 78 have been fruitless, and he says the city has not been responsive to his concerns.

“There were only 35 spots available in that neighborhood,” O’Toole wrote in a letter to Mayor de Blasio provided to the Queens Chronicle.

He says sending his daughter to a pre-K program outside of his neighborhood is not an option due to geography.

“It’s bordered on two sides by water and the other two sides by industrial areas, other schools are not an option for many working parents that rely on childcare takers that can only walk to destinations for pre-K,” he added.

Harry Hatfield, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said it was likely O’Toole was talking about the seats at PS 78 specifically — though he noted pre-K classes are held with 18 seats each, so the real number of seats at the school was likely in an interval of 18 — and that there were “hundreds” of seats available in District 30, which includes Long Island City.

Similar problems have been reported elsewhere in Queens. In Ozone Park, one parent signed her son up for a pre-K program in Woodhaven, while another parent from Howard Beach reportedly was offered a seat in the Rockaways.

“I have to pay a toll to get my daughter to pre-K?” she said on Facebook.

DOE representatives who attended civic meetings last winter promoting UPK warned that if parents did not sign up by the April deadline, they may not receive a pre-K seat in their neighborhood.

But some argue that it didn’t take into account families that were planning to leave the city but haven’t yet, or those who have moved to the city since.

The DOE says there is space for them, but maybe not so close to their homes.

The agency also had to contend with building code violations at some providers in recent weeks.

Welcome to the discussion.