#childsafety | NYC parents say de Blasio’s free child care program is a mess

The city’s free child care program is costing parents their patience.

Parents say they’ve been left in lurch with no notification on whether their child secured a slot or have received last-minute acceptances into the Learning Bridges program.

“The mayor fails to provide any specific information that parents need,” said Robert Bonanni, of Forest Hills, who has a 7-year-old daughter. “I don’t have child care. A lot of people are scrambling.”

Bonanni is a teacher at PS/MS 164 in Flushing and his wife teaches at Stephen Halsey JHS 157 in Rego Park. Teachers and other Department of Education staffers are supposed to be among those getting priority access to the Learning Bridges program.

Bonanni said he jumped on the chance for a child care slot, immediately filling out a city form on Aug. 19. He said he didn’t receive confirmation that his application had even been received until Monday.

“They’re holding parents hostage,” he said.

Mayor de Blasio announced in July the city would make available 100,000 child care slots for free starting in September. Asked if all slots would be ready by the time school started de Blasio said “the goal is to have it all online.”

Earlier this month, the city said only 30,000 slots would be ready now with the rest to be added later.

The care is for students in preschool up to eighth grade who are in the city’s blended learning model and will be in school only one to three days a week. The program is to take place at Ys and other community centers giving students a place to do their remote studies while their parents work.

In addition to DOE staffers, priority for admission is supposed to go to the children of essential workers and those in shelters, foster care or public housing and the disabled.

One mom, a New York City school staffer, said she got an email Wednesday night — just days ahead of what was supposed to be the opening of school on Monday — saying her 5-year-old daughter had a child care slot at a local Y. But the program begins at 8 a.m. — the same time she is slated to be at work.

“How am I supposed to be at my job at 8 a.m.? That is our reporting time,” said the mom. “It’s just another added pressure and no answers and false promises.”

In-person learning is now supposed to start Sept. 29 for those in kindergarten through fifth grade and to Oct. 1 for older students after de Blasio made an 11th-hour decision to delay the opening.

Councilmen Ben Kallos, who joined Councilman Brad Lander in July saying the program fell far short of the number of slots needed, said the city had done a poor job of explaining exactly what Learning Bridges provided and how to apply.

“I would just say it’s a total mess,” Kallos said.

City Hall could not provide much in the way of answers including how many children had been offered slots.

“This is an ambitious effort that will aim to serve 100,000 young people — nearly the size of Boston and Seattle’s school districts combined. We’ll be sharing more information next week and look forward to updating New Yorkers on this unprecedented initiative,” a spokeswoman said Friday.


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