Mayor Bill de Blasio, with schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña to his right, reads to a prekindergarten class at a public school in Queens on Wednesday. Credit: @NYCMayorsOffice /Twitter
Mayor Bill de Blasio sat in front of an afternoon prekindergarten class at P.S. 239 in Ridgewood, Queens, hunching over to hear children describe the life cycle of a caterpillar.
"This is a very smart group here," the mayor said on Wednesday, after one 4 year old explained the necessity for cocoons. De Blasio quizzed the kids while reading them "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," and received delighted, shouted answers.
Maritza Narvaez, one of the class teachers, told de Blasio at the end of his visit that they hope to empower the children, making them more independent and confident.
"These guys are an amazing example of what can happen if you get pre-k," de Blasio told her.
Soon, the mayor later announced, more children will have access to pre-k classes in city public schools. With funding secured in the state budget, officials said Wednesday that city schools will add more than 4,200 full-day prekindergarten seats for the fall.
Parents can already apply for the seats, which span 140 schools in the five boroughs.
Only about 20,000 kids are currently enrolled in full-day pre-k citywide, de Blasio said. The new public school seats are part of the city's plan to increase that number to 53,000 by September.
Additional spots will be provided by community-based organizations later this spring, which parents can apply to on a rolling basis.
De Blasio said the enthusiasm for learning he witnessed in the pre-k class will soon be possible on a wider scale.
"It's something that now tens of thousands more families will get to experience and benefit from," he said.
The city aims to have 73,000 total pre-k seats by September 2015.