The city's 1.1 million public school students have begun a new school year, and the spotlight Thursday was on the new pre-K students. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
He played and read with 4-year-olds in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens, ate lunch with fifth-graders in the Bronx, and struggled with Spanish Simon Says in Harlem.
The first day of school was a significant day for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who centered his campaign on the promise of bringing universal pre-K to the city.
More than 51,000 preschool students are now being served at more than 1,700 sites across the city, an 150 percent increase compared to last year.
"This is a moment of fulfillment, a dream we've had for a long time finally coming to fruition," de Blasio said.
The mayor and his wife, Chirlane McCray, began the day taking their son Dante to begin his senior year with a new commute from Gracie Mansion.
"We were emotional wrecks. Dante was absolutely blasé," the mayor said.
It was his children, the mayor said, who inspired his push for universal pre-K.
Meanwhile, many parents of the smallest children said they are grateful for the new program.
"He's learning," said parent Krystina Robinson. "He's learning how to write. Now, he knows how to count, his ABCs. So it's pretty good."
For the mayor and his inner circle, it was not only a day of celebration, but also vindication, that despite a rushed schedule, many stumbling blocks, several last-minute issues and plenty of naysayers, they were able to launch the program.
"When people say it can't be done, we're out to prove them wrong," said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
"Sometimes in life, you have to say, 'This is my number one priority, and we're going to move heaven and earth,'" the mayor said.
As for the rest of the school system, the mayor and chancellor said they will be announcing significant changes soon, including new policies on how schools share space and a strategy for struggling schools.
But first, a bit more celebrating. Monday will be the first day of the vastly expanded after-school program open at 562 middle schools across the city.