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New Kensington-Arnold hopeful of kindergarten help from state

| Thursday, July 18, 2013, 1:36 a.m.

New Kensington-Arnold officials will apply for state grant money in hopes of bolstering the kindergarten program this school year.

Superintendent John Pallone said the state has announced about $1.2 million in additional Keystones to Opportunity (KTO) grant money will be available to schools that alrparticipate in the literacy program.

The district's KTO grant coordinators, Dana Fularz and Nicole Bitar, suggested applying for additional money to pay for a teaching liaison to visit area child-care programs and work with district kindergartners.

Budget and space constraints led to the board reducing kindergarten to a half-day program this fall, a cut that several parents have protested.

Pallone said the district could apply for the nearly $200,000 it would need to bring back full-day kindergarten, but officials won't know whether they'll receive the money until September.

That means they would have to implement it now and risk having to come up with the money if the grant doesn't pan out.

Since less than $700,000 in grant money is available for programming geared to elementary programs, Pallone said it's unlikely the district would get enough to fund a full-day program.

“I think it's unreasonable to think we're going to get 20 percent (of the available grant money),” Pallone said.

Fularz and Bitar said the district will be in a good position to get some money.

Only 55 districts — those that receive KTO grant money — are eligible. And since the district has applied for elementary funding and been denied, officials believe that will give their application more points.

“I think we have a really good shot,” Fularz said.

Pallone said the application will be for a teacher who will travel to child-care programs and work with students who kindergarten teachers have identified as needing additional help or enrichment. And the traveling teacher can suggest day-care activities to supplement the district's curriculum.

Pallone said the Valley Points Family YMCA tentatively has proposed offering a day-care program within the district's three primary schools, easing the difficulties some parents face in finding child care for half-day kindergartners.

Those plans have not been finalized, and officials said the teaching position could work with the day cares whether or not they are in the school buildings.

Other grant proposals

Additionally, the district plans to apply for some grant funding for a liaison to work with area pre-schools to better prepare children for kindergarten.

And they want to apply for some middle school money to fund a reading specialist to assist sixth-graders.

Any positions funded through grants will last only as long as the grant funding is available, Pallone said.

The new positions likely would be filled by existing teachers who would go on special assignment, with long-term substitutes filling the vacancies in the regular classrooms. Once the positions are gone, the original teachers would return to their classrooms.

Board members at an informational meeting on Wednesday indicated support for the applications, which must be completed by the end of the month.

“I love the idea,” Director Liney Glenn said.

Director Pat Petit noted that since there is a small window to apply for the grants, that could mean not all eligible districts will have the time to apply — working even more in New Ken-Arnold's favor.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or

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