Full-day pre-K kicks off at all schools
For the first time Kensington, Maryville, Pleasant Hill, Sampit and Waccamaw elementary schools began offering full-time pre-kindergarten classes for 4-year-olds this week.
The county’s other elementary schools — Browns Ferry, Plantersville, Andrews and McDonald — had the full-day classes previously.
For Shaquana Henson, whose son Nhakyrii began the program at Maryville on Monday, it was something she had been hoping would be offered this year. She said she started to send her son back to the Head Start program this year but changed her mind when it was announced the pre-K would be full-day county-wide.
“I was very excited about the full day,” she said. “I believe he will learn more and it makes it better for my work schedule. I can pick him up on my lunch break.”
Henson said she likes her son’s teachers — Jennifer Blake and para-professional Melanie Foxwell — both teaching pre-K for the first time.
Teachers will put a major focus on reading during the instructional time they have with the students.
Patti Hammel, the district’s executive director of Student Performance and Federal Programs, said in the schools that have already had full-day pre-K classes, language and social skills are improved for children beginning kindergarten.
The full-day classes give teachers more time to focus on individual students.
The expanded programs were made available because the district received about $900,000 in new money from the state this year earmarked for early childhood education.
However, the money did not come with a guarantee it will be made available again next year.
At a recent school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Randy Dozier said he is “optimistic” the state will continue to provide the funds in the future.
“Next year is an election year and this is a popular program,” Dozier said.
In order for the district to qualify for the money, at least 75 percent of the students must be eligible for free or reduced lunch.
Dozier said he hopes the county financial situation improves so that the vast majority of the students do not qualify for free or reduced meals. While it would mean the district would lose the state funds, it would also mean the district would be collecting more local taxes and could pay for the programs itself.
Hammel said there is a waiting list of 4-year-olds hoping to get into the program. The exact number is unknown.
“We are getting the list together. We are still having parents show interest and the teachers are completing the screening process,” Hammel said.
She said the district is exploring the addition of classes based upon need.
“The funding may be secured, but we must have the eligible students to qualify,” Hammel said.
She said the first couple of days of the program “went without a glitch.”
By Scott Harper
Notice about comments: