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Mayor, Schools Chancellor Tour After-School Program

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The de Blasio administration has made expanding the city's after-school programs one of its top priorities, and he and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña toured one of the newly expanded programs Friday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio ended his week beat boxing.

The spontaneous performance with students from M.S. 255 was all an effort to encourage families to sign up for the city's vastly expanded after-school programming.

There are 71,000 seats this year, a major increase from the 44,000 last year. As of now, only 34 percent are filled.

"I want to urge all my fellow parents: if you want after-school for your middle school child, sign up now," the mayor said.

While universal pre-k has gotten most of the attention, the other half of the mayor's first big education initiative was this plan, to provide after-school programs five days a week, three hours a day for every middle-school student in the city. The city will spend $145 million on it this year.

"The after-school part of our plan is profoundly important. It is going to allow us to reach so many more middle-school kids," de Blasio said.

Like the pre-K expansion, the mayor and his wife, First Lady Chirlane McCray, said their personal experiences as children and parents inspired this push.

"I know that I would not be standing here before you today if it were not for all the things that they had me doing after school, because for me, being in school was a little tough experience," McCray said.

However officials admitted that unlike pre-K, the after-school program requires the middle-school students themselves to buy in.

"This is not something that most parents can force their children to do. They are able to discuss with their kids and their kids make choices," said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

They said when it launched Monday, only 15 percent of the seats were filled, but each day this week, thousands more signed up. So by Friday, 24,000 students had enrolled.

"At some point in the next two or three weeks, we're going to hit full enrollment," said Bill Chong, commissioner of the Department of Youth and Community Development.

Not only have programs expanded to 562 middle schools, the city is also spending more per student, at $3,000 a head. Now, they just need the kids to sign up.

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