Renew full-day UPK at Birch Family Services, Washington Heights for 2016/2017 school year.

This petition made change with 102 supporters!

We, the parents and community members of Washington Heights, respectfully request that the NYC DOE renew or extend the full-day UPK contract at Birch Family Services in Washington Heights for the 2016-17 school year.  Birch Family Services, located at 554 Fort Washington Ave, is a wonderful pre-school that is greatly valued and an essential part of our immediate community, but their UPK contract has not been renewed for the upcoming school year. The Administrators were told that there was "no need" in their geographical location, but we fundamentally disagree. In fact, the need for this school has increased more than tenfold since their pre-k program began. Birch Family Services provides unique opportunities to serve both typically developing and special needs students in an integrated setting with enhanced, bilingual language supports. This is a high quality program, which meets a critical need in our community. 

 In 2013, there were just 14 students approved for UPK in addition to the special needs students, but the program has grown exponentially since. Last year, 175 families applied and listed Birch as their first or second choice. There are currently 32 UPK students enrolled and 14 additional special needs students. The numbers speak for themselves. The demand is clearly there. If Birch's UPK contract is not renewed, they will have to close their integrated program (classes of mixed special needs and standard preschool). This is a unique program that has been very successful for many children and has been seen as a potential model for replication in other educational facilities. Many nearby schools do not have enough seats available to absorb these students and no other program in the area serves children with special needs as well as Birch. This decision would affect 46 children and their extended families.

 We value this program for numerous reasons, including the quality of staff, the services they provide, their warm and inviting facility, but another key component is their location. Birch is the only Pre-K within reasonable walking distance for many families in the Washington Heights community. The topography of our neighborhood cannot be appreciated on a map, and there are many steep hills, staircases and limited through streets. Therefore, walking to one of the other UPK school options will take two to three times longer for most people. This will result in extra challenges for those with disabilities, and for seniors who often provide much needed parental care. In addition, many families have more than one school age child. Having to walk further will make it logistically impossible for many to get all of their children to school on time. Please keep in mind that this will create legitimate logistical concerns and have real-world effects on our quality of living.

 Lastly, if the full-day UPK option at Birch for the coming school year is not renewed, many families will feel compelled to pay a premium for childcare while they are at work, causing undue financial hardships.

 We ask that you please review our concerns and urge the DOE to renew Birch's full-day UPK contract for 2016-17.


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