Mayor de Blasio came to Queens on Monday, and his first stop was to the newly renovated Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens to promote one of his young administration’s latest education policies.
And it wasn’t universal prekindergarten
Though universal prekindergarten is dominating the mayor’s education policy in his first year, de Blasio is also putting a focus — and a lot of tax dollars — toward expanding afterschool programs across the city.
The mayor was in Richmond Hill to speak to a group of middle-school teachers, administrators and other school staff attending a “boot camp” run by part of Sports & Arts in Schools Foundation, a Long Island City-based nonprofit that is the one of the largest providers of afterschool activities in the city.
Referring to the attendees as the “boots on the ground” in the implementation of expanded afterschool programs, de Blasio said such services are vital.
“As a public school parent, I knew the importance of afterschool programs,” he told the audience of about 100 people on Monday. “There has been a lot of debate about extending the school day. Afterschool is a way to extend the school day. Those extra hours give children more.”
The mayor announced a $145 million investment into afterschool programs specifically for middle-school students called School’s Out New York City, which will begin Sept. 8. The trainees at Monday’s boot camp will be among those administering the program, de Blasio said, along with over 100 community-based organizations citywide.
SONYC programs will be available in 562 schools this fall, City Hall announced. They will operate under the larger Comprehensive After School System of NYC, which was recently renamed and reorganized and operates more than 800 afterschool programs across the city. Ultimately, the mayor said, the goal is to serve every middle-school student in the city.
The total number of seats in afterschool programs will nearly double this year to 78,903 — 71,000 of which will be available on Sept. 8 with the rest coming during the year at special-education schools and private schools. De Blasio said the city’s afterschool programs will expand to over 86,000 seats by 2016 and will be open five days a week for 36 weeks during the school year.
A separate Request for Proposals for non public schools and community sites will be issued this fall.
De Blasio was joined on Monday by Bill Chong, commissioner of the city Department of Youth and Community Development, who commented on Monday’s daylong “boot camp,” which featured middle-school students who have taken part in afterschool programs telling the attendees what they like and don’t like about them.
“One of the keys to successful SONYC programs is giving a voice to young adolescents in the types of programming they want to see,” Chong said. “This weeklong ‘boot camp’ will enable staff to learn from their peers about strategies to engage young people and ensure they are exposed to high-quality, diverse opportunities that make learning fun.”
SONYC program agendas are planned by each individual school, but often include homework help, tutoring, athletic events and arts programs including painting and music.
De Blasio added that space for the programs was not as big an issue in dealing with as it has been for his expansion of pre-K because the programs utilize school buildings when classes are not in session and often use public facilities like parks when outside of school grounds.
Enrollment applications for city-funded middle-school and elementary-school afterschool programs are available at nyc.gov/afterschool.