New York, NY—New York City schoolchildren are now back in school, alternating between in-person and remote learning during the school week. On the days there is remote learning, parents have had to scramble to figure out child care options for their young children. A new program by the NYC Department of Education provides free childcare options, but a limited number of seats are currently available in Community Board 8’s district.
Last week, CB 8 hosted a webinar on the urgent need for child care that featured numerous officials, including speakers from NYCDOE, NYC Department of Youth and Community Development and the Office of Management and Budget, as well as Council Members Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) and Keith Powers (D-Manhattan).
Learning Bridges, the new NYC Department of Education program, provides free child care options for children from 3-K through 8th grade on days when they are scheduled for remote learning.
About 30,000 seats for the Learning Bridges program are now available citywide, but only 60 Learning Bridges seats are currently available in the CB8 district, which will be operated by the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has an ambitious goal to ramp up to 100,000 seats but one impediment may be the lack of available space. That’s why Council Member Kallos has advocated for using vacant storefronts, shuttered parochial schools and even asking developers to build additional floors in a high-rise residential building to make room for a child care center.
According to the Council Member, there are locations in the district that can easily house Learning Bridges childcare seats. For example, there’s child care center that he negotiated as part of the supportive housing development on East 91st Street.
“We’d like to offer it up, it’s all renovated, we just need someone to take it over,” said Kallos.
And there’s a site at 84th Street and 3rd Avenue, a former Duane Reade.
“Also, I have gone to every developer, including Extell Development, to say if you plan to build in the neighborhood and you are legally allowed to build 210 feet, I would like to give you, with the community board’s help, another 40 feet of height so you can give me four stories of a school to try to build as many school seats as we can,” Kallos added.
Community Board 8 member Tricia Shimamura then asked about who will be occupying the seats at the Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center, whether the schoolchildren are from the Isaacs Houses public housing project, or from across the city.
But Susan Haskell, Deputy Commissioner, Youth Services, NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, noted that she did not have that information at hand but hoped to provide it at a later date.
Shimamura followed up by saying that while she appreciated the city’s efforts to provide child care for 3-K students on days they are learning remotely, she would like to see childcare options available for children younger than 3 years old.
“Childcare concerns don’t start at three years old; they start at three weeks. That’s all I got for maternity leave,” said Shimamura.
Elizabeth Williams, Director, Data Analytics at NYC DOE, said that DOE would love to have more opportunities, particularly for families with young children. She noted that part of DOE’s portfolio is a network of home-based providers, but they are means-tested, so people would have to qualify based on a certain income threshold.
“Obviously, that’s not an opportunity for everyone, and we wish it were, but they are certainly out there and hoping to provide the board with some information on where those slots are,” said Williams.
And Council Member Kallos added that the Administration for Children’s Services administers the Early Learn NYC program, which is also means-tested. A family of three whose income doesn’t exceed $46,692 would receive free and/or on a sliding scale child care seats for babies six weeks old.
For parents wanting to apply to the Learning Bridges program, they can begin the process at the following webpage: https://prek4all.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_ac4kZNaIMaixbc9