2015-09-02 / Features

DOE: LIC Pre-K Opening Could Face Delay

An item posted last week on the Department of Education (DOE)’s Facebook page showed that a new Universal Pre-K program for 270 youngsters in Long Island City is currently not scheduled to open for the start of the 2015/16 school year.

The item, listed under the banner “Pre-K For Everyone,” (see inset) indicates that  a Pre-K program slated to open at the former Most Precious Blood School building at 32-52 37th Street would not be opening for the upcoming school year. The item appeared on the DOE Facebook page on the morning of August 28, on a list updating the status of DOE Pre-K programs. The same information was posted on the site as of Monday, August 31.

A DOE spokesperson told the Gazette that ongoing construction at the building may have delayed opening of the new Pre-K. “It’s possible that the building is not yet quite ready,” the spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman saidoncerned parents who accepted an offer for their youngster to attend the Most Precious Blood Pre-K, but did not register their child, should go to the walk-in registration center listed on their on paperwork to confirm when the school will be ready to open.

“Just because some sites are not currently ready to open does not mean they will not be ready on or about September 9,” the spokeswoman said. A large number of youngsters will be registered for the city’s 2015/16 Universal Pre-K program on the first day of school, due to the heavy response for seats, the spokeswoman said.

Neighbors of the Most Precious Blood Pre-K Program this week told the Gazette that renovations at the former parochial school building appeared to move slowly throughout the summer.

“There weren’t many people working at the building all simmer and there has been very little noise coming from the building since the scaffolding went up in June,” a neighbor said.  “But a lot more construction workers began showing up about eight days ago,” the neighbor said. “They showed up all of a sudden, and since then they’ve been working almost around-the-clock and on weekends, hammering and drilling like they’re in a hurry to get the work done. There’s a lot of noise coming from the building now, day and night, so we guess someone is rushing the work to try to open the school on time,” the neighbor said.

When work is completed, the building must pass inspections by the Fire Department, the Department of Buildings and a list of other state and city agencies before it can open.

An FDNY source said the agency performs strict code inspections at new and renovated sites, particularly when buildings are for use by minor children. The buildings must pass a series of fire prevention inspections and must be equipped with working sprinklers, fire doors, proper exits, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, fire escapes, FDNY approved locks and window guard locks, emergency escape doors and other working systems, the source said. “FDNY inspectors adhere to the strictest building code requirements in the city,” the source said. “Especially at sites designed for use by minor children.”

The Gazette has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Education (DOE), the City Department of \ Finance, the Diocese of Brooklyn and  the City Comptroller’s office for full disclosure of all lease, rental, contract and contract lease agreements between DOE and the Diocese for the building at 32-52 37th Street, to determine when an agreement was signed between the parties and how much the city will be paying for use of the building.

Operators of several other Queens Pre-K programs told the Gazette that DOE regularly pays $15 per square-foot for space in existing school buildings and other sites.

A spokesperson for Comptroller Scott Stringer who responded to the Gazette FOIL request said the office does not currently have any contract, lease or rental document for the Long Island City building.


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