Proposed Day-Care Project in New York Would Keep Schools Open Until 6 P.M.
The head of the New York City Youth Bureau has proposed that some of the city's public schools, "the great institution of the community," remain open until 6 P.M. to provide free after-school day care for young children.
The $2.7-million pilot project proposed by David R. Jones, executive director of the city's Youth Bureau, would extend all-day kindergarten sessions by three hours at 60 of the 604 city schools that instituted the all-day program this year.
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Under the proposal, which some officials said could spur other major cities to follow suit, students up to age 7 in the 1st and 2nd grades would also be eligible to participate. Scattered after-school programs for students in grades 3 through 12 are already available in New York City, school officials said.
This is the first year the city's public schools have offered all-day kindergarten. The initiative was launched last fall with a $15-million budget allocation approved by the New York City Council and Board of Estimate. School officials said last week that 56,000 children are participating in the full-day kindergarten program, and an-other 2,000 attend half-day programs.
"One of the objectives of the all-day kindergarten was to help working parents and single parents," Mr. Jones said. "It received tremendous support from the public. The one problem with it was that it only went to 3 P.M."
Now, Mr. Jones is suggesting that the program be extended to 6 P.M. but that the extra time not be used for a structured educational program. "The trouble we're running into is that people see this as a longer school day," he said. "We're talking about after-school programming for the children."
That, Mr. Jones said, would include recreational activities, story hours, nap time, and field trips to museums.
In remarks to reporters last week, Nathan Quinones, acting chancellor of the city's schools, said he was willing to meet with city officials to discuss how the program might be implemented and to ensure that it will coincide with, and not detract from, other school programs.
A spokesman for the New York City Board of Education said that the board had proposed a similar program in its budget request for the fiscal year beginning July 1, but that city budget officials had eliminated the item.
Edward L. Sadowsky, chairman of the City Council's finance committee, said last week that he supported the proposed after-school program, which he said would respond to an "enormous need."
New York City has more than 350,000 single-parent households, the highest per-capita proportion in the country, Mr. Jones said. In these households, he said, most of which are headed by women, there are more than 550,000 children.
Mr. Jones's recommendation is in the form of a budget proposal to the City Council s budget, which, under the City Charter, must be adopted by June 5 for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Mr. Sadowsky said the proposal must be approved by the City Council, the Board of Estimate, and Mayor Edward I. Koch. If it becomes a budget item, the New York City School Board would also have to agree to make available its public-school buildings.
"I don't see any objection to it philosophically; they're public buildings and they're for the use of the public of New York City," said Margorie McAllister, interim acting director of the Early Child Education Unit of the New York City Board of Education. "My only concern is that it be a quality program."
Among the issues that have to be considered in determining the program's quality, Ms. McAllister said, are whether children would be fed between their lunch hour and the time they go home; whether outdoor activities would be mixed with various types of indoor activities; whether the project's staff members would be qualified to work with young children; and whether there would be adequate supplies and materials.
Could Be 'a Spur'
"The New York City effort is a wonderful step in the right direction," said Michelle Seligson, director of the School-Age Child Care Project at the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women.
"I think it would be fantastic," she added. "If New York City does this, it would really be a spur to other major cities. In general, the development of these kinds of models has taken place more typically in smaller communities."
Bertha Campbell of the Bureau of Child Development and Parent Education with the New York State Board of Regents said that "there are many school districts that say they don't want full-day kindergarten or extended school programs, which you can call day care, because they don't feel they should be all things to all people. And I agree with that."
"But on the other hand," she added, "I think schools have to recognize parents have very distinct needs, and any time a school can offer a program to help a family reduce the number of child-care arrangements it has to make, you not only help the parents, but you provide continuity in that child's life. And continuity is absolutely crucial in a child's ability to learn."
In December, Mr. Jones said, virtually all city agencies were asked: "If you had more money, what new areas would you branch out into?" New York City "has not been able to look at new areas for six or seven years," he said, but this year officials can do so because of the city's much-improved financial picture.
September Start-up Date
Mr. Jones said the Youth Bureau, besides recommending the extended all-day kindergarten, has proposed that some of the surplus money be spent on shelters for homeless children, summer remediation programs, and a program for teen-age mothers. If the after-school proposal becomes a budget item, Mr. Jones said, it would probably have a September start-up date.
The New York City Youth Bureau, which currently provides $5 million for after-school programs for students in grades 3 through 12, provides grants to community-based organizations that provide services under contractual agreements with the city, Mr. Jones said.
"We're not talking about adding burdens on to education," he said of the after-school plan for young children. "We're talking about using the school building, one of the most valuable institutions of the community. The school building stands empty from 3 to 6 P.M. ... Not to use it is a mistake."