Poll: Would you wait 2 days in line for your child’s pre-K registation?

By Laura Herzog

Starting Thursday morning, several Jersey City parents began waiting in line for one of 82 “first come, first served” registration spots at a popular pre-K program in the city.

The amazing part? The registration began Saturday morning, so many of the parents waited on line for two full days and nights, bringing tents and blankets, plus books and portable DVD players to pass the time.

The pre-K program, at Concordia Learning Center on Summit Avenue, has a contract with the Jersey City Public School District, which is required by the state to provide universal pre-K. On its website, the center claims it is “as one of the highest quality Pre-K programs in the nation.”

There are, however, about 40 programs for pre-K available to parents in the almost 40-school district, and thousands of children register for pre-K each year. So, the number of parents so determined to get into this school that they will wait on this line is relatively small. All the programs, which the district says meet the same high quality standards, are listed here.

More information is available here.

The district also has “highly recommended that (providers that attract lines) use a lottery to avoid the ‘sleepover,'” according to Maryann Dickar, the superintendent’s chief of staff. She said the overall average per pupil cost for contracted preschool providers in Jersey City is $11,940, though this varies by site.

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“Parents may feel that some programs are better than others and each program is different so may also appeal to different parents,” she told NJ Advance Media last year, but “we are confident that those children who aren’t placed at their first choice program will still be will served in another program.”

“We monitor all of our providers to ensure that they are meeting the standards established by the state and district to ensure a high quality program for every child, but we can’t guarantee that every program will be exactly the same, nor would we want them to be,” she said.

According to CLASP, a Washington-based nonprofit advocating for low-income people, the New Jersey Supreme Court required years ago that all 3- and 4- year-old children “in the highest-poverty school districts receive a high-quality preschool education.” Based on space, the publicly funded programs are offered through Head Start agencies, the public schools and private programs.

In Jan. 2015, the pre-K advocacy group Pre-K Our Way said that New Jersey has one of the best pre-K programs in the country but more communities should receive publicly funded pre-K.

The line for Concordia’s program has started earlier and earlier every year, and tends to attract more people than there are slots. Last year, 35 parents were turned away, according to the head of the program, Migdalia Viole.

Viole said she had personally heard of one other school in Jersey City that attracted a line.

Several parents said they hoped that there would be an alternative to the line next year.