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De Blasio Administration Working Out Logistics for Pre-K Plan

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Winning the money for universal pre-K was just the first challenge facing Mayor Bill de Blasio, as the administration is now working out the logistics for making the plan work, and it's not nearly as simple as just opening the right number of classrooms. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

On Thursday, the mayor spent time learning about earthworms. On Wednesday, he was focused on the appetites of caterpillars.

There are lots of reasons why Mayor Bill de Blasio won't stop talking about pre-K, but one of them is very practical: he needs 4-year-olds. Tens of thousands of them.

With funding won, officials now face a complex puzzle and a tight deadline.

"We actually start to now apply this on the ground to people who need it," de Blasio said.

They quickly need to match small children with qualified administrators and available classrooms.

"We wanted to find programs where they could offer high-quality, full-day pre-K to children across the city, but as we looked at the evaluation, we also, of course, had to look at the suitability of space and also community need," said Sophia Pappas, executive director of early childhood education for the Department of Education.

The problem is, neighborhoods with available space often don't have many students, and areas bursting with kids have no classrooms, or even closets, to spare.

It's not a new issue. In the first round of pre-K admissions last year, nearly 9,000 students didn't get spots, yet more than 2,000 pre-K seats were left unfilled.

In January, the DOE was still recruiting for this current school year while hundreds of full-day pre-K seats remained unfilled across all 32 school districts.

Now, with the program expanding so rapidly, matching classrooms to families becomes an even bigger challenge.

"The ball is in our court to deliver, to make this happen on the ground," de Blasio said.

So get ready to hear a lot more about applying to pre-K on the sides of buses, on subways, while on hold with 311, on Taxi TV. Want more information? It's available by text message, a website, a hotline or in person at 13 enrollment centers.

"All of those approaches are going to saturate this city," de Blasio said.

The first deadline for programs in public schools is less than three weeks away, but over the next few months, there will be round after round of applications, lots of shuffling and, of course, more recruiting, all aimed at some of the littlest New Yorkers.

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