In response to concerns that New York City’s much heralded Universal Pre-Kindergarten program (UPK) will no longer be available for half-day programming, the City has now announced that flexible half-day scheduling will still be allowed. Agudath Israel of America hailed the announcement as “wonderful news for many Orthodox Jewish children, parents and schools.”
Early childhood education providers in New York City have heretofore had two options through which to participate in the UPK program: either by offering a full day 6-hour-20-minutes program of uninterrupted secular instruction for 180 schooldays a year, or a half-day program for 2-and-a-half hours a day.
Many Orthodox Jewish and other religious schools have decided that the full-day option is not workable, and have instead opted for the half-day model.
However, in a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued in early November, the City made no mention of future funding for half-day programs, leading to concern that the City was planning to foreclose the half-day option.
The concern was relayed to the City in the form of a letter dated November 13 from Agudath Israel executive vice president Rabbi David Zwiebel, writing in his capacity as chairman of the Committee of NYC Religious and
Independent School Officials.
“Without the option of half-day UPK,” Rabbi Zwiebel wrote, “thousands of children will be completely shut out from any benefits of a UPK program.”
The City’s response came in the form of a letter dated December 1 from Deputy Mayor Richard Buery to Rabbi Zwiebel: “While we continue to place an emphasis on full-day pre-k seats, there will be a half-day RFP to accommodate those families and providers for whom half-day is the best option.”
Rabbi Zwiebel stated: “On behalf of thousands of young children in our community, I would like to laud Mayor de Blasio and Deputy Mayor Buery for ensuring that UPK lives up to its promise to provide every child with the most suitable early childhood education – and the best prospects to succeed during their subsequent years in school and in life.”