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BPS Adds 216 New Pre-kindergarten Seats

BOSTON — April 5, 2016 — The Boston Public Schools (BPS) announced today that two East Boston schools will be offering pre-kindergarten classes for the first time, including one that is a dual-language program, as part of a commitment by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the Boston School Committee, and Superintendent Tommy Chang to expand early-education opportunities for Boston families.
“Boston families deserve expanded access to high-quality, early-educational experiences,” said Mayor Walsh. “This is about strengthening the foundation of learning for our children. The experiences they have before entering kindergarten will shape their ability to learn, and I’m proud that we’ll be able to give more children the strong start they need to succeed within Boston Public Schools and beyond.”
The new pre-K seats at the Donald McKay K-8 School and the Mario Umana Academy are among the more than 200 additional K1 seats created as strategic investments in the BPS FY17 budget that was approved on March 23 by the Boston School Committee.K1 classes are available to children who turn four years old by Sept. 1 of a school year.
The McKay’s new K1 program will have 22 seats, and the Umana will have 20 seats in its English-Spanish dual-language program. They are among a group of five schools that were recently selected for the expansion of K1 seats for the 2016-17 school year.
In addition to the McKay and Umana, the other three schools, which already have existing K1 programs, are: Baldwin Early Learning Pilot Academy in Brighton; Young Achievers Science and Math K-8 in Mattapan; and Mildred Avenue K-8 in Mattapan. Each of these classes is expected to have a full capacity of 22 seats.
These five schools are now available to families interested in registering for a K1 seat as part of the enrollment process for the coming school year. Families interested in these schools and others should visit one of the BPS Welcome Centers between now and the April 15 registration deadline.
Altogether, BPS will be expanding K1 classes next year school to a total of ten schools, including five other schools that were previously included in an earlier round of school enrollment. These schools are the West Zone Early Learning Center; Curley K-8; Harvard/Kent Elementary; Josiah Quincy Elementary; and Charles Sumner Elementary.
With the expansion of new seats, BPS next school year will be providing K1 education of some form to a total of approximately 2,800 students at 96 percent, or 76 of the district’s 79 elementary schools in the district.
Noting that Boston Public Schools is considered a national leader in early childhood education, Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael O’Neill said participation in the BPS K1 program has consistently shown that it helps to reduce achievement gaps in later grades.
According to national and district research, Black and Hispanic/Latino students who participate in BPS K1 outperform white students who do not participate in K1. Meanwhile, students who participated in the BPS K1 program were also 50 percent more likely to be “ready for kindergarten” than students who did not participate and they outperformed their peers in math and literacy tests by 20 percent.
“Closing the achievement gap is one of the School Committee’s and the district’s top priorities,” said O’Neill, citing the creation of the School Committee’s Achievement and Opportunity Gaps Task force. “It is critical that we begin doing this as early possible in a child’s life in order to give our students a jump start on succeeding in school.”
Recently, a Harvard study published by the Society for Research in Child Development found the academic gains achieved by students in the BPS early-childhood programs are the “largest found to date in evaluations of large-scale public pre-kindergarten programs.”
 “At an early age, our students are learning valuable foundational skills, including the ability to work with peers, count and solve complex problems. This expanded access to pre-kindergarten programming will improve our children's math and literacy readiness, and we're confident that this opportunity will put them on a pathway to continued success," Dr. Chang said.
Claudia Gutierrez, principal of the Umana, said the new dual-language K1 class will strengthen her school’s dual language program for the upper grades by helping students who enter kindergarten be prepared for the academic rigor.
"The Mario Umana Academy is excited to offer East Boston families the first dual language K1 class in our community. These students will be the first to complete a full K1 through grade 8 dual-language program in East Boston. Biliteracy in both English and Spanish gives Umana students an edge in an increasingly globalized world,” Gutierrez said. "The younger you are when you learn a language, the easier it is to attain fluency.”
Jordan Weymer, principal of the Donald McKay School, said his school is excited to be expanding educational opportunities for young children and their families in East Boston.
“The addition of a new K1 classroom will be an essential element in increasing the academic outcomes of our children by providing them with a solid foundation for future success,” Weymer said.