East Boston schools will offer pre-K classes for the first time

One is an English-Spanish dual-language program.

Superintendent Tommy Chang.
Superintendent Tommy Chang added K1 seats as part of his long-term strategic investments for the district. –Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe / File

Two East Boston schools will offer pre-kindergarten classes for the first time in the 2016-17 school year, including an English-Spanish dual-language program, the district announced Tuesday.

The new pre-K seats at the Donald McKay K-8 School and the Mario Umana Academy are among the more than 200 additional pre-K seats created as part of Superintendent Tommy Chang’s strategic budget initiatives. The exact amount of funding for the program was uncertain for a time, as some of the money was reallocated to high school budgets following a massive student walk out in March. But the district said Tuesday that, with the new seats, Boston Public Schools will provide pre-kindergarten education to about 2,800 students at 76 of the district’s 79 elementary schools. The schools were among five that were recently selected for expansion of K1 seats, which serve children who turn four years old by Sept. 1.

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Claudia Gutierrez, principal of the Umana, said the new dual-language K1 class will strengthen the school’s dual language program for the upper grades by helping students who enter kindergarten be prepared for future courses.

“These students will be the first to complete a full K1 through grade 8 dual-language program in East Boston,” she said in a statement. “Biliteracy in both English and Spanish gives Umana students an edge in an increasingly globalized world. The younger you are when you learn a language, the easier it is to attain fluency.”

The district will expand K1 classes to a total of 10 schools next year. This brings the district to a total of 216 new pre-kindergarten seats for the upcoming school year.

Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael O’Neill said participation in the BPS K1 program has consistently shown that it helps to reduce achievement gaps in later grades.

“Closing the achievement gap is one of the School Committee’s and the district’s top priorities,” O’Neill said in a statement. “It is critical that we begin doing this as early possible in a child’s life in order to give our students a jump start on succeeding in school.”

Families interested in registering their children for these schools should visit one of the BPS Welcome Centers between now and the April 15 registration deadline.

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