No Full-Time Kindergarten For Many Youngsters In East Ramapo District

RAMAPO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A kindergarten crunch marred the first day back to school in on Rockland County district.

As CBS2’s Lou Young reported Wednesday, there are more students than full-time seats.

In East Ramapo – one of the area’s poorest school districts – officials went so far four years ago as to contemplate the cancellation of kindergarten. Now, it is split sessions for many little ones.

Listening to parents talk about a child entering class for the first time picks up on the confusion and concern.

“Someday I want to play with my friends, but I can’t because some days I have to leave my own school,” said kindergartner Lando Rodas.

Even with a state monitor and a new superintendent, the district has been forced to hold a lottery for a limited number of full-time kindergarten slots. A total of 156 students won the lottery, while the rest of the 600 students got a lot less — what passes for a half-day.

“Two-and-a-half hours, and that includes lunchtime and break,” said kindergarten parent Roberto Rodas. “They’d actually be in school like an hour and a half.”

One mother said the half-day session means she has to stay home from her job as a house cleaner, because she cannot afford daytime child care.

It is not supposed to be that way. The New York State Legislature appropriated $3 million in emergency funds, but the district has yet to implement the plan.

“Ideally, this would’ve been set up months ago,” said state Rep. Ken Zebrowski (D-New City). “We passed this bill in June, and would’ve hoped that it’d be up and running.”

“My hope was that we would have all-day K on the first day of school – of course that was my hope; I want that for all schools everywhere,” said East Ramapo schools Supt. Dr. Deborah Wortham. “There is a process.”

That process has gone slower than anyone is happy with. Wortham said she is now pinning her hopes on an upcoming public hearing for how the new state money can be spent.

The state monitor said he wants to make sure the state money is spent efficiently.

Right now, East Ramapo is only one of six districts in New York state without full-time kindergarten. Children in New York state are not required to attend school until they are 6 years old.

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