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Amsterdam and B-PCS are among local schools earning pre-K grant

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - Updated: 10:28 AM

By CAROLINE MURRAY

Recorder News Staff

The Greater Amsterdam and Broadalbin-Perth Central school districts are among 81 districts and community-based organizations to receive state funding to start full-day pre-kindergarten programs.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday the $340 million in state funding is the first installment of the 2014-15 state budget to invest $1.5 billion over five years to build a Statewide Universal Full-Day Pre-Kindergarten program.

However, with a new school year looming, both Amsterdam and B-P officials are not sure if they can hire the appropriate personnel and outfit classrooms in time to start the program this year.

Amsterdam Superintendent Thomas Perillo said implementing a full day pre-kindergarten program is going to be a challenge before classes start.

He said district officials will meet with the board of education today at its monthly meeting to discuss the options.

Perillo said they could either choose to start the school year with only the half-day pre-kindergarten program already in place, or the district could put off pre-kindergarten classes until they are able to establish a full-day program.

"So if it comes to us having to put everything off for a couple of weeks, then we would have to notify and correspond with parents to let them know," Perillo said.

"That is still up in the air," said Michele Kelley, spokeswoman and grant writer for B-PCS. "We have no furniture, we need to order everything and unfortunately our vendors can't turn it around in two weeks," she added.

Kelley said district officials are looking for guidance from the state Education Department, and are hoping to find out soon if the program will be ready in time.

The GASD received $935,416 in state funding, and B-PCS was awarded $596,830.

According to the state Education Department website, 128 school districts initially applied for the grant and 12 withdrew their applications.

In Montgomery and Fulton counties, Amsterdam, Broadal-bin-Perth, Gloversville, Fort Plain and Johnstown school districts applied for funding, and only Johnstown was denied.

According to a press release, all grantees are required to demonstrate quality program standards -- ensuring high quality early care and education.

Perillo said currently, the William H. Barkley MicroSociety Magnet School, R.J. McNulty Academy for International Studies and Literacy Magnet School, and the William B. Tecler School for Arts and Education Magnet School each facilitate a morning and afternoon pre-kindergarten class, which has 36 students enrolled at each school.

"What we are doing with the money is expand on that and make full-day pre-k programs," Perillo said.

With the additional funds, Perillo said Barkley will now have a full-day program, McNulty will have two full-day classes, Tecler will have one full-day and one half-day program, and the Marie Curie Institute of Engineering and Communications school will now offer a full-day class.

Perillo said a few extra slots will be open for parents looking to introduce their children to pre-kindergarten for the first time. However, he said the half-day programs that are already servicing 36 students will be cut to 18 students.

The district will hire three additional teachers, full-time teacher assistants, and invest in more technology with the grant money.

Perillo said teachers will expand the curriculum to accommodate for full-day classes as well.

"I think with all the demands placed on our students and teachers, I believe starting earlier and getting kids acclimated to the education setting on a full-day bases probably only enhances their kindergarten years," he said.

Kelley said Broadalbin-Perth will use the grant money to hire three new full-time pre-kindergarten teachers, as well as three new teacher assistants and a part-time school nurse.

Additionally, Kelley said officials are looking to hire a part-time social worker who will serve as a parent advocate and a part-time occupational therapist and part time physical therapist.

"Generally, some of the greatest needs are working with the younger students," Kelley said.

Also, the district is contracting with the Fulton County YMCA to deliver a physical education program three times a month -- which is not a requirement of the full-time pre-k program.

Kelley said the district is also heavily investing in technology such as iPads, SMART boards and kid-friendly 3D printers for each classroom.

The district has had a half-day pre-kindergarten program for more than a decade now, with two half-day classes offered at the start of each school year. Kelley said now the district is looking to run one half-day class at The Learning Community in addition to four full-day pre-k classes.

This will accommodate 72 students, and 18 at the half-day level.

The curriculum will be extended and more focused on STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math courses, as well as physical education.

"Teachers will be able to go much more in-depth," Kelley said.

Contact Caroline Murray at caroline.murray@recordernews.com.

     

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