Less than a third of free childcare seats promised by city will be available by beginning of school year

Bill de Blasio Mets Steve Cohen
Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Only 30,000 of the 100,000 free child care seats promised by the city for blended learning students on their remote learning days will be available to parents by the start of the school year on Sept. 21, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday. 

Another 70,000 slots will be available by October with all 100,000 seats expected to be available in December, officials said.  Priority will be given to the children of essential workers, the children of teachers and school staff along with low-income and homeless students. 

“Starting something from scratch is a huge endeavor it just did not exist before and it had to be created,” de Blasio told reporters when asked why the city was so far behind in creating the thousands of childcare slots. It remains unclear where exactly the students taking advantage of the 30,000 seats will report to later this month. 

In July, Mayor de Blasio explained that the city would scope out libraries, community centers and cultural centers for potential daycare space and pledged to have all 100,000 seats available by the beginning of the original start of the school year on Sept. 10. 

A typical day for preschool students at a city daycare center will include center-based play, social-emotional skills development, early learning and physical movement. For students in kindergarten through the eighth grade, centers will provide support for remote learning exercises, creative arts and literacy activities which will be balanced with physical fitness. Students will be provided free meals and snacks at the centers during their remote learning days. 

Parents that expressed interest in a daycare seat on the Department of Education’s website will automatically be entered into the enrollment process, according to Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Youth and Community Development Susan Haskell. 

Guardians or parents interested in signing their student or students up for a daycare slot should fill out an application on the DOE’s website.  

Students participating in blended learning will stay with the same set of students throughout their in-person school days as a preventative measure to mitigate any possible spread of the novel coronavirus. There is no guarantee though that students will remain in those groups at daycare centers on their remote learning days.  

“We are going to do everything we can to keep groups of kids together,” said Deputy Chancellor of Early Childhood Enrollment Josh Wallack. “We are absolutely going to integrate the tracing and reporting on students in Learning Bridges programs in close coordination with their school groups,” Haskell added. 

The city’s update on free childcare seats came shortly after Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a long-awaited update on the city’s school ventilation system inspection. 

De Blasio announced that 96% of the  64,550 classrooms reviewed by School Construction Authority engineers “passed” their inspection for working windows and functioning air vents. The criteria used during ventilation system inspections is still unclear. 

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza assured reporters on Tuesday that the issues in the 2,800 classrooms that failed to make the grade during inspections were “minor” and could be easily fixed by the start of classes. Carranza did not elaborate on the definition of a minor issue.