District considers Pre-K Counts

| Saturday, April 5, 2014, 1:11 a.m.

Southmoreland School District is looking at a new program that will help prepare children for kindergarten.

Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts was established by the state Department of Education and is geared to children ages 3 to 5 with a focus on those at risk of academic failure. It is available to students in households whose income does not exceed 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

Funding through the program comes from the Office of Child Development and Early Learning and is handled through the Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette Inc.

“The classrooms have a certified teacher and the students learn different kinds of things (to prepare) them when they enter kindergarten, such as letter recognition, number recognition, emerging literacy skills, how to follow the rules, how to sit quietly, how to take turns, all the things that make that transition into kindergarten a lot easier,” Superintendent John Molnar told the school board at its meeting this week. “This is just one more opportunity to help us to have students entering our school ready to learn.”

The program would begin in the 2014-15 school year if approved. Shujuane Martin, director of Head Start/Early Head Start/PA Pre-K Counts, Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette County Inc., said the program has been in effect for about seven years and is being utilized in the Albert Gallatin and Uniontown school districts.

“It's been very successful,” Martin said. “It's like a mini kindergarten. It gives the kids all the preparation necessary for them to be ready for kindergarten. We hire the teachers. We manage the program. We pay the schools for the usage of space and ecumenities.”

Brown explained each classroom has two teachers, a lead teacher with a degree in early childhood education and an assistant with an associate's degree. There are at least three parent-teacher conferences held throughout the school year.

“We encourage parent involvement in the classroom,” Brown said.

There are no more than 20 children in a classroom, which allows for more one-on-one time with the teaching staff.

The program operates five days a week, six hours a day. Children are provided breakfast and lunch.

Molnar added there is a classroom available in the elementary school for the Pre-K Counts program.

The item is expected to be on the agenda when the board meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in the middle school cafeteria.

Other items expected to be on the agenda include:

• Approval of the potential 2014 graduate list which numbers 159.

• Approval of the operating budget for the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit.

Southmoreland's contribution to the Intermediate Unit budget is $14,968.18, $60.48 less than last year.

Westmoreland Intermediate Unit #7 serves Westmoreland County's 17 school districts, as well as the Clairview School, and three Westmoreland County career and technology centers, under the direct supervision of its board of directors and central administration.

Intermediate units are regional educational service agencies created by the Pennsylvania Legislature in 1970 to provide support to local school districts, to expand educational services and to provide cost savings to taxpayers by eliminating service redundancy and taking advantage of economy of scale.

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or ppaterra@tribweb.com.

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