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EXCLUSIVE: Gravesend, Bensonhurst to get new early childhood centers for start of school year

Three new early childhood centers will open in District 21 for the start of the 2015-2016 school year to ease Pre-K overcrowding at nearby schools, according to Superintendent Isabel DiMola.

Two centers will be in Gravesend, one connected with Our Lady of Grace School, and one on Avenue X, and one will be in Bensonhurst at Bishop Kearney High School, DiMola announced Wednesday, July 15 at a Community Education Council (CEC) 21 meeting at I.S. 228.

The district and the city have planned the centers for the past year, DiMola said. They are part of Round 2 of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s universal Pre-K program to give city youths free, full-day Pre-K.

“We’re very enthusiastic about the mayor’s initiative and look forward to helping the community,” DiMola said.

The centers will have the capacity for nine classes, and their directors are currently interviewing potential teachers.

According to DiMola, the centers will ease district congestion. “The opening of these spaces are because of a need in the community,” she said. “Some schools [in District 21] are at their maximum capacity, so we wanted to make sure there are enough seats.”

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Faraz T. Toor
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Faraz T. Toor

Support for the centers was expressed during the meeting.

“We need more space for our Pre-Ks,” Heather Ann Fiorica, CEC 21 president, said. “These children will be given the same education as a child in his or her zoned school: the Common Core.”

“I’ve seen overcrowding,” said Brian Gotlieb, a former CEC 21 member who is currently on Community Board 13. “There is a need all over New York. I’d like to see one in Coney Island.”

New York City children born in 2011 are eligible for universal Pre-K in September. The Round 2 application period for this school ended Friday, July 10.

Round 2 Pre-K programs have waitlists and will make offers from them starting August 24.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. to correct a previous version of this story that misstated the neighborhoods of the three centers.

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