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Private preschools hired by NYC hit with health violations


Private preschools hired for Mayor de Blasio’s 3-K for All classes have racked up dozens of health violations for a variety of offenses, city records show.


All but one of the 13 private operators hired by the city to offer preschool lessons under de Blasio’s signature second-term education initiative have been hit with violations over the last three years. They include failing to conduct background checks, putting sick workers on the job with kids and failing to supervise children.


Step by Step Early Childhood Education, an operator in Brownsville, Brooklyn, had more than twice the frequency of violations — based on infractions per visit over the last three years — than the citywide average, city records show.


In total, the dozen operators had 72 violations and all have been corrected. But activists and parents said they’re still nervous that kids aren’t safe.

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“Mayor de Blasio and his administration just don’t take the health and safety of our children seriously,” said New York City Parents Union president Mona Davids.


“Do we have to wait for a tragedy to happen before we take these violations seriously? There’s no excuse,” Davids added. “Our children’s safety should be put first.”


The city’s 3-K for All program kicked off in September with more than 1,500 seats in the Bronx and Brooklyn.


De Blasio — who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment — has heralded the free, full-day preschool for city 3-year-olds as a “historic” counterpart to his popular Universal Pre-K program and said he wants to take the new initiative citywide.

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Mayor de Blasio’s (c.) 3-K for All is modeled after the city’s Pre-K for All plan.

(New York City Mayoral Photography Office)


Modeled after the Pre-K for All 4-year-olds, the classes are administered by a mix of public schools and private providers.


But the private contractors the mayor hired to help with the project at the rate of $12,000 per student have some skeletons in the closet.


The Highbridge Learning Center in the Bronx — which has 37 3-K students in the current school year — had the most violations, with 21 infractions in preschool programs since 2015, ranging from keeping expired milk to inadequate supervision for kids, city records show.


Highbridge officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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Three other operators each had 10 violations, including Step By Step in Brownsville, which enrolls a dozen 3-year-old students from a colorful storefront on a quiet block.


Some of the violations included not having enough staffers on site to supervise children (in April 2015); teachers who did not have required qualifications (in November 2015) and the educational director not having required qualifications (in October 2017), records show.


Parents hadn’t heard of the infractions.


“I did not know that, that’s crazy. Wow,” said Davonne Spellman, 23, when a reporter informed him of the health code violations as he picked up his 3-year-old daughter Kaylee from 3-K.


A Step by Step staffer speaking on behalf of the management declined to comment on the violations.


“We have been in business for over 18 years and we’ve been very successful and very highly rated,” said the staffer, who wouldn’t give her name.


As with all of the providers, all of the violations at Step by Step have been corrected.


But Step by Step had more than twice the city average for frequency of violations, getting citations 37% of the time during inspections in the past three years, compared to the city average of 16%.


Education Department spokesman Will Mantell said all the private operators hired for the city’s 3-K programs underwent thorough background investigations and health and safety reviews.


Mantell said there are frequent site visits, and if a violation is found that represents an immediate threat, the site is closed.


“Every 3-K site is safe,” Mantell said. “These are issues that we identified through our rigorous inspection process that the sites then swiftly addressed.”

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