Several local school districts and one community organization received funding about a week ago for full-day pre-kindergarten, leaving little time for district officials to purchase supplies, hire teachers and find classroom space by the first week of September.
But, after applying for pre-K grants earlier this year, one district took preemptive steps and planned where students would go and who would teach them. And another district had an existing program and infrastructure that made the expansion a smooth transition.
The Broadalbin-Perth Central School District, recipients of a $596,830 pre-K grant, interviewed prospective teachers and decided whom they were going to hire if they were awarded the funding, said district Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson.
Tomlinson also said the district discussed where the new wave of 4-year-old students would go to school. Tomlinson said this was an important step to make sure the full-day program was a success. The program is set to begin Sept. 15.
“We were hiring new elementary school personnel and decided to also choose who we would hit if the pre-kindergarten money came through,” Tomlinson said.
The Greater Amsterdam School District already offers half-day pre-K, but is now planning to add more students and teachers, district Superintendent Thomas Perillo said. It was easy to expand the existing program, he said, but because the announcement came so late in the summer, purchasing supplies and furniture for the classrooms has been difficult.
The district plans to start the pre-kindergarten school year Sept. 8, five days later than the rest of its schools.
“Certainly if we knew the money was coming in June or July it would have been easier, but we are just glad we got the money,” he said.
Jonathan Burman, a spokesman for the state Education Department, said the department extended the application deadline in response to requests from districts, which, in turn, extended the timeframe for reviewing the applications.
“Staff from the state Education Department and the Division of the Budget worked as quickly as possible to complete the review and final award process,” he said.
A number of studies have shown children who participate in high-quality early care and education programs are far more likely to read at grade level and graduate from high school.
They also show quality full-day pre-K programs increase student performance in math and reading by second grade and decrease the rates of grade retention.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo included $380 million in the state budget for pre-K — $340 million for New York City and $40 million for the rest of the state.
The Gloversville Enlarged School District, recipients of a $1,045,568 grant, and the Kids Express Center in Colonie, recipients of $539,383, were the other local organizations to receive funding.