- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 9, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio kicked off the school year with visits to schools around the city Wednesday and said the 65,504 children now enrolled in full-day pre-kindergarten fulfills his longtime goal of a public school seat for every 4-year-old.

“This is a moment in history to reflect on and to remember,” de Blasio said after visiting a pre-K class at Public School 59 on Staten Island. “For the first time, any child, anywhere in the city, any 4-year-old can have full-day pre-K for free.”

Universal pre-K was de Blasio’s signature issue when he ran for mayor two years ago. He said the 65,504 figure will rise as additional parents sign up their children this month and next and bragged that New York has more pre-K pupils than the total public school populations of Boston or Seattle.

P.S. 59 parent Jen Nersesian said her son, Avedis, was “super-excited” to start pre-K. “So many of the studies out there show what a difference it makes,” she said. “All kids should have that opportunity.”

De Blasio posed for photos and high-fived children before heading into a pre-K classroom, joined by his wife, Chirlane McCray, Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and elected officials. De Blasio, McCray and Farina took turns reading from a book called “Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes.”

“Do you guys have school shoes? Let’s see your shoes,” de Blasio said.

The mayor next visited a pre-K classroom at Get Set Kindergarten in Brooklyn. He perched his 6-feet-5 frame on a tiny chair at a table of kids making pizza out of Play-Doh. “Are you excited to be at school?” he asked one girl, who said yes. He asked why. “Because I love it,” she replied.

Farina visited Public School 29 in Brooklyn, where she started her teaching career 50 years ago.

She told third-graders that her classroom used to have a chalkboard, not a dry-erase board. “Does anyone know what chalk is?” she asked.

The children laughed loudly and she continued, “We had a blackboard that you actually wrote on with chalk.”

Wednesday was the first day of school for most of the city’s 1.1 million public school students, though some charter schools started earlier.


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