As many as 65 Schoharie County youngsters will be able to get a jump on education in 2014 with the help of a $204,600 grant.
Up until now, the Schoharie Central School District has been unable to establish a pre-K program due to the startup costs, Superintendent Brian Sherman said.
“We’re really excited about this,” he said.
State funding was announced recently for Schoharie’s pre-K startup and one other in the Capital Region: The Green Island Union Free School District is set to receive $86,713 for the 2013-14 school year, according to the state Education Department. State funding is also earmarked for existing pre-K programs at the Albany, Schenectady and Watervliet school districts.
But all of the awards are contingent on money being appropriated in next year’s state budget.
Hiring staff and buying furniture and materials is a first step districts typically have to shoulder in their budgets before annual state education aid for pre-K begins, Sherman said, and “that initial setup is very costly.”
The grant money will eliminate the budget pressure and enable the district to bring the community’s 4-year-old children to the elementary school to begin their education.
The district is joining efforts with Schoharie County Head Start and the Whispering Pines Preschool, which are preschool providers that focus on income-eligible families and students with disabilities, respectively.
Both organizations provide preschool services but an estimated 35 percent of the local 4-year-olds — 60 to 65 children — are ineligible for those programs, according to the district.
The lessons will follow the guidance of the New York State Prekindergarten Foundation for the Common Core, a set of learning expectations linked to K-12 education standards.
Aimed at providing skills and concepts needed for successful academics, the program focuses on several elements: approaches to learning, physical development and health; social and emotional development; communication language and literacy; and cognition and knowledge of the world, according to the state Education Department website.
Sherman said he believes early education is critical, especially for students in rural areas, who don’t enjoy as much interaction with their peers as students do in urban areas.
“When you have a rural environment, there’s not the capability or capacity for students to use their language skills with others,” he said.
Dialogue with parents also diminishes when both parents are working, he said.
Sherman said the district will begin advertising the new opportunity as soon as possible and pre-K lessons could begin as early as February.