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Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts kindergarten transitional program coming to Southmoreland School District

| Saturday, April 12, 2014, 12:56 a.m.

Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts is coming to the Southmoreland School District for the 2014-15 school year.

School directors voted on Thursday to approve the kindergarten transitional program handled through the Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette Inc. The program is funded by the Office of Child Development and Early Learning.

A room in Southmoreland Elementary School will be leased from the district for $9,000 a year.

Each of the eight school directors in attendance voted for the motion. School director Jason Pawlikowsky was not in attendance.

Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts was established by the state Department of Education and is geared toward 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.

Superintendent John Molnar said an advantage of the program is the acclimation to the school district it will provide.

“Our excitement about this is that they will become familiar with beginning letter sounds, ending letter sounds, how to write (their) names, how to sit in a seat and pay attention, how to be a student basically,” Molnar said. “I think we're recognizing the importance of having children coming to school ready to learn.”

Two teachers lead each class, which usually numbers no more than 20 students. There are a lead teacher with a degree in early childhood education and an assistant with an associate's degree. The program operates five days a week, about six hours a day. Children are provided breakfast and lunch. The majority of those students involved will be from the Southmoreland School District.

Pre-K Counts, which is being utilized in the Albert Gallatin and Uniontown school districts, would be up for renewal annually.

Former school director Catherine Fike warned the board and administration to be aware of the language in the contract for Pre-K Counts.

“Get ready for a lot of staff grievances,” Fike said.

“What these people said was, ‘We're not getting paid for this,' ” she said. “I'm not saying don't do this, but I would be very careful about the wording in that contract. ... I would be very careful to put in there wording that specifically describes what you're not responsible for.”

School directors also approved the declaration of items deemed as “unused and unneeded” from the former administration building at 609 Porter Ave. as surplus.

These items include: a double pedestal desk, a double credenza, a hutch with base, an office computer desk, seven metal two-door cabinets, about 60 wooden chairs from the high school library before renovation, and five small locking wooden cabinets.

They will be moved to the field house where they will be advertised for the public to purchase.

The board voted in March to authorize the sale of the former administration building and the hiring of auctioneer Mark Ferry to sell the building in a reserve auction.

School directors voted in February 2012 to close the building because of potential costs of necessary renovations.

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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