WINDSOR TERRACE — A city councilman offered a glimmer of hope that a popular universal pre-K program at Sacred Heart Catholic Academy in Glendale that was targeted for closure might not have to shut its doors after all.
Councilman Robert Holden said the New York City Department of Education is taking a second look at its decision to cancel the program.
“They are looking at it again. They are thinking about it,” he told Currents News.
While not promising anything, he said, “We may have some good news.”
Councilman Robert Holden said universal pre-k programs in Catholic schools deserve to be saved. (Photo: RobertHolden.cpm)
Holden, a Democrat representing Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, and other Queens neighborhoods, said public pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza shouldn’t let up.
The councilman wrote letters to the mayor and the chancellor urging them to reverse course. He also noted that an online petition organized by parents garnered more than 1,500 signatures “in less than a day and a half.”
Last month, it was announced that the city decided to cancel 105 universal pre-K programs in the fall, including five housed in Catholic academies in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The schools are St. Joseph Catholic Academy, Long Island City; St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy, Greenpoint; St. Catherine-St. Therese Catholic Academy, Flatbush; Sacred Heart Academy, Bayside; and Sacred Heart Academy, Glendale.
The decision means that the city-sponsored pre-K programs will cease to operate at these locations as of September 2021.
Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, superintendent of schools in the diocese, sent a letter to De Blasio and Carranza expressing his disappointment.
“It is inconceivable that successful, long-term programs hang in the balance and that families will once again have to try to find suitable options for their children,” he wrote.
Holden charged that Carranza was “heavy-handed” in his decision to close the pre-K at Sacred Heart. “There was no negotiation,” he said. “You have to understand there are children involved. You don’t uproot someone and send them to other schools.”
In the letter to schools informing them of the decision to cancel the universal pre-K classes, the Department of Education did not offer a reason for the move.
“Your proposed site location was not selected because the need for services in this area was met by proposals that received higher quality scores,” the DOE letter read in part.
Holden, who grew up in Queens and is a graduate of Mater Christi High School (now St. John’s Prep) in Astoria, said Catholic schools have stepped up to the plate to provide a valuable early childhood education to the city’s children.
“The Catholic schools have figured it out. They do a great job,” he said.
Many pre-K programs housed in Catholic schools have waiting lists, Holden said. “If you have a waiting list, you must be doing something right,” he said.