Deputy mayor visits Sunset school to discuss Pre-K for All

It’s never too early to learn.

Deputy Mayor Richard Buery visited P.S. 516, Sunset Park Avenues Elementary School, 4222 Fourth Avenue, on Wednesday, January 18 to spend time with students of the school’s pre-kindergarten program and discuss the significance of Pre-K For All.

“It’s so much fun to visit those kids,” said Buery, who interacted with the students during various activities. “I think it’s a great thing that all around the city today there 70,000 four-year-olds having that same experience in different neighborhoods. Many of them would have been home watching television and there’s [a huge] difference between that and the rich experiences they’re getting now, like the friends they’re making, the skills they’re learning, the concepts they’re exploring, and learning about the world.”

Pre-K for All, which was ushered in at the beginning of his term by the then-newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio, is an initiative that gives kids free pre-kindergarten education that runs five days per week from September to June. Most pre-K options are on a full-day schedule. Some five hour and half-day options are also available.

“Tens of thousands of kids haven’t experienced this every day, and it’s really a wonderful thing for the city and working parents that are saving thousands of dollars who would [otherwise] have their kids in day care,” Buery said. “They can go to work. We feel from a developmental, economic and educational standpoint, it’s one of the best investments the city can make.”

Principal of P.S. 516 Jill Smith discussed the dramatic improvement the program has made for local kids. “Before Pre-K for All, it was really left to chance whether kids would experience a school setting before they went to kindergarten and parents were left to luck and now it’s literally becoming an opportunity that everyone can experience.”

Although some parents may be apprehensive about sending their children to pre-k, both Buery and Smith wants them at least to observe the experience.

“Sometimes, parents think their babies shouldn’t go to school,” said Buery. “Parents should at least visit the program. If you go to that room, I think all of a sudden you feel comfortable leaving your child there.”

“The biggest thing for parents is to see kids in that space and know their kids are going to be loved and cared for and are going grow,” added Smith.

Getting the word out still remains a goal. “The real job is to make everyone understand the opportunity there,” Buery said. “It’s one thing if a parent decides not to do it, but the worst thing for me would be if they don’t know how to do it because it’s new. We’ve put a lot of effort into communicating that.”

“It’s important especially for immigrant communities where you might have parents not familiar with the system and how things work,” said Smith.

Since the program began, it has grown. “Our expansion started three years ago so in our first year, we went from 19,000 kids in full day pre-k to about 53,000 kids,” Buery said. “In our third year, we have 70,000 kids. So at this point, we imagine it will grow from year to year.”

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