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Parents of children who attend Bayside’s Raymond O’Connor Playschool said they would probably face costly day care expenses after the city announced it would close the pre-kindergarten program as well as another in Flushing.
The school, at a playground across from Bayside High School on Corporal Kennedy Street, is scheduled to close at the end of the city’s fiscal year June 12. Each day the program serves a total 30 children from Bayside, Flushing, Springfield Gardens and other borough neighborhoods as well as Long Island.
“I’m really upset because I want my daughter to continue this program,” Bayside mother Elaine Salzberg said. “Now, parents have to look for other places.”
Salzberg currently sends her 3-year-old daughter to the playschool and had sent her son for two years. She said Raymond O’Connor charges her $1,800 per year, whereas most borough day cares cost as much as $500 per month.
The city Parks Department operates both Raymond O’Connor and Flushing Fields Playschool at Memorial Fields.
“Because of the fiscal crisis, every agency has to make budget cuts and one of the steps Parks has put into place is the closing of programs where equal or better options are available,” a statement from the Parks Department said. “Queens has five playschools attended by 75 children. The five full-time playschool staffs will be reassigned to Parks recreation centers. With the rise of free universal pre-school, we feel this phase-out is a responsible and necessary cost-saving measure for New Yorkers as we all try to do more with less.”
The Bayside school has two teachers and one alternating parent for five days a week. The day’s first session runs from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and the second session goes from noon to 2:30 p.m.
One of the site’s teachers said she could not comment last week on the city’s decision to discontinue the program. But parents of children who use the playschool had plenty to say.
“This is the least expensive program around here,” said Bayside’s Darlene O’Rourke, who had planned to send her 18-month-old son to the program due to her 3-year-old daughter’s good experience at the playschool. “It’s nice to send your child to something your older child’s been to.”
Parents said they often provided supplies, such as toiletries and snacks, to the center. They praised the program’s teachers, attributing their children’s success in grade school to attending the playschool.
“They become molded little people,” said Rose Macchio, of Bayside, whose son is in his first year at the school. “The school fills up every day. They have no problem getting 30 kids every day.
Parents often line up at 7 a.m. to ensure that their children are able to attend the school, which operates on a first-come, first-serve basis, each day.
Activities at the center include learning the alphabet and numbers, small trips, arts and crafts, ice skating and reading.
City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), said his office has made its objections known to the city about the closing of the two northeast Queens playschools.
“It should be off the table to talk about reducing childcare or after school programs,” he said. “The current [state] budget attacks those things as well as public safety.”
The city is also planning to cut after-school programs at several schools in the community, such as Bay Terrace’s PS 169 and Flushing’s IS 25.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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