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Southmoreland School District to add pre-kindergarten program

| Saturday, April 12, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Southmoreland School District will add a kindergarten transitional program for the upcoming school year.

School directors voted on Thursday to approve Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, which is handled through the Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette Inc. The program is funded by the state welfare department's Office of Child Development and Early Learning.

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

The board's vote was unanimous. Director Jason Pawlikowsky was absent.

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

Superintendent John Molnar said the program's benefit is the acclimation to school it provides.

“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.”

There are two teachers in each classroom, which usually has no more than 20 students. The lead teacher has a degree in early childhood education and an assistant has 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 students involved will be from Southmoreland.

Pre-K Counts, which is already established 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 contract language for the program.

“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,” Fike said.

School directors also approved declaring as surplus unused furniture and other items from the former administration building at 609 Porter Ave. The items will be moved to the field house and advertised for the public to purchase.

The board voted in March to sell the former administration building and hire auctioneer Mark Ferry to hold a reserve auction. Directors voted in February 2012 to close the building because of the costs of 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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