NEW YORK - In the summer, children of essential workers, children living in temporary housing and NYCHA developments, children of New York City Department of Education school and program personnel, children receiving child welfare services, and students with IEPs were promised free childcare once school started.
The city promised 100,000 slots, part of the new program called Learning Bridges, providing free childcare options for children from pre-K through 8th grade on days when they are scheduled for remote learning.
Rob Bonanni, a teacher at PS/MS 164 in Flushing, Queens, is frustrated with the mayor and the DOE. He and his wife are both New York City teachers. They have been back at work since Sept. 8 and are teaching remotely from their school buildings.
"We want to teach, we want to be with our students, we want to be here, but at the same time we have two young children," Bonanni said.
But they have one issue: their second-grade daughter is in the blended learning program. She only goes to school two days a week; the rest of the days she learns remotely.
"We've had some babysitters, my daughter has gone out to my in-laws, she stayed at friends', so basically every day we're finding new places to send her," he said.
On Monday, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza told reporters that 3,600 early childhood Learning Bridges seats are available.
"Notifications should have already started to go out," he said.
School officials said they are starting with preschool students and will have 30,000 slots available by next week.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said they want to accommodate as many people as possible.
"It's a brand new initiative that was built in response to the pandemic conditions and we've dealt with the challenges that we've dealt with everywhere else," de Blasio said.
Challenges that have frustrated Bonanni. He said he cannot get a clear answer from anyone. He was willing to pay out of pocket to have his daughter enrolled in the local Y, but they aren't taking students since the city is using community centers for Learning Bridges.
On Aug. 19, he received an email from the DOE asking him to submit an application for his daughter. He said he submitted the application that same day but didn't get a response until Sept. 15, saying: "Thank you for applying to Learning Bridges. This email serves as a confirmation that we have received your application and are currently processing it. Below please find some additional information about the program. We will follow up with you in the coming days regarding the results of your application."
"Childcare is not a guarantee, it's not something that you're guaranteed, but the fact that it was something that our mayor promised and is failing to deliver his promise," Bonanni said. "He has made many promises over the past couple of months that he has been unable to fulfill and it's very, very frustrating."
Parents can email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about the status of their application. Officials said someone will get back to you within 48 hours.