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In pursuit of pre-K goal, New York City goes to great lengths to enlist yeshivas

(Photo: Jackie Schechter)

(Photo: Jackie Schechter)

As the city scurries to make 53,000 full-day pre-kindergarten slots available this September, every seat counts.

But when officials tried to round up pre-K seats in Jewish schools, the largest group of non-public schools in the city, some ultra-Orthodox yeshivas hesitated to add full-day programs that would limit their time for religious instruction. So the administration came out with a set of guidelines tailor-made to ease their concerns.

The guidelines, released just days before applications to provide full-day pre-K were due last month, assured religious schools that they could hold publicly funded pre-K classes on Sundays, screen would-be teachers based on their religion “to the extent permitted by law,” use religious texts in class “when presented objectively,” and give lessons in other languages, such as Yiddish or Hebrew. The Jewish newspaper Hamodia first reported on the guidelines last month.

The guidance grew out of a series of meetings at City Hall convened by the mayor’s office to sell the ultra-Orthodox community on full-day pre-K. Jewish leaders explained that a full day of secular preschool would subvert the role of yeshivas in the eyes of many parents and school leaders, and wanted to know how they could maintain their religious character without violating any rules tied to the public funds.

Read the full story on Chalkbeat New York.