City officials on Monday unveiled two new early-education programs aimed at helping kids in high-need areas.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced the first "Educare" school in the city.
It is part of a national program focusing on early education services for children aged five weeks to five years old.
"It's part of the growing experience. If the kid just sits at home, they don't have that experience of how to deal with other children in a multi-person setting and how to listen to somebody and then you can start to teach kids at that age," Bloomberg said.
The school, which opens next year at P.S. 41 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, will include a leadership institute to train early childhood school directors.
Asked what a five-week-old baby could learn, Bloomberg responded, "Well, look, you're not going to teach them calculus at that age, but, uh, the first thing is to teach them to deal with other kids."
The experts explained that even that could be a little advanced for infants, and that the first lesson is even more basic.
"The first thing that they do is hold them and talk to them and look in their eyes and have interactions. The very first way students learn is by contact with adults in supportive, strong relationships," said Susan Buffet of the Buffet Early Childhood Fund.
Research shows it is working. Babies who attend Educare schools are much more prepared when they enter kindergarten than other low-income students.
Educare is a year-round program, with 8- to 10-hour days, funded through a combination of federal Head Start money, state and city pre-K dollars and private donations. There is a big focus on working with parents.
"When you have children as young as three to six months and you bring their parents in early, you are modeling, the teachers are modeling, for their parent how to interact with them," said Children's Services Commissioner Ronald Richter.
The city will also add 4,000 new full-day pre-kindergarten seats for the 2013-2014 school year. Those seats will also be in high-need areas.
"Although half-day pre-kindergarten is good, it's only two-and-a-half hours, so full-day is really much better at creating that foundation," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. who also attended the announcement.
With kindergarten now required in New York State, that foundation is starting earlier and earlier.
For more information about early childhood education, and enrollment, visit NYC.gov or call 311.