Allegheny Valley School District is hoping to offer a pre-kindergarten program for the first time next school year, but significant details still need to be worked out before it could begin operating.
The school board is expected to vote Monday to create the program, but questions remain on the criteria for accepting children into the program, busing and curriculum.
The district’s proposal calls for two half-day pre-K sessions — one in the morning and one in the afternoon — for 4-year-old students.
The program would be free for families, and acceptance would be income-based.
District officials said space is limited and the exact number of students that can be accepted hasn’t been determined. It could range from 20 to 40 students depending on what classroom they end up using for the program.
The pre-kindergarten classes would be held at Acmetonia Elementary School. Adding classes there would require approval from the state Department of Education.
“We absolutely need and want this program,” Superintendent Pat Graczyk said.
Graczyk said there isn’t any other pre-kindergarten offering in the area and the district is trying to fill a need and create equity for families who want their children to participate in pre-K.
He said about 29 families have expressed interest in the program, based on a survey sent out this year.
Officials said the program would be taught by one teacher and one teacher’s aide who are already employed by the district, so no additional costs would be incurred for staffing. An additional cost of about $2,000 is estimated for supplies.
The district is applying for grant funding through the state’s Pre-K Counts program.
School board member Nino Pollino questioned the income-based requirements for accepting students.
“How do you determine need?” he asked.
Specifics weren’t provided Tuesday.
Pollino said he was hesitant to put restrictions on the program because the district is supposed to provide education to everyone.
School Director Joelle McFarland said she wanted to see an educational screening component added to the criteria to ensure that students who show need are considered to help prevent them from struggling once they get to kindergarten.
School Director Elizabeth Moretti questioned why there would be a need to pay for busing with such a small and young group of children. The estimated cost for busing is about $36,000.
Graczyk said administrators wanted to provide a busing option to make it easier for families who might not be able to drive their children. If only a small number of students needed bus service, a school van could be used and costs would be lower, or the district could decide not to provide busing, he said.
“We need flexibility to execute the program,” he said.