Allegheny Valley School Board OKs pre-K program |
Valley News Dispatch

Allegheny Valley School Board OKs pre-K program

Emily Balser

Allegheny Valley School Board unanimously gave the go-ahead Monday for the district to create a pre-kindergarten program that will begin next school year.

The decision came after lengthy discussions about the number of students the program will serve and what students will be eligible.

The district’s plan calls for two half-day pre-K sessions — one in the morning and one in the afternoon — for 4-year-old students.

The pre-kindergarten classes will be held at Acmetonia Elementary School. Adding classes there requires approval from the state Department of Education.

Officials said the program would be taught by one teacher and one teacher’s aide who already are 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 cost for busing will be about $36,000.

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.

Board member Nino Pollino said that if the district is going to create a pre-K program, then it should be open to all eligible students — which officials said is roughly 160 kids.

“I think we’re doing a disservice,” he said. “Why would we limit it just to economically disadvantaged?”

The district is applying for grant funding through the state’s Pre-K Counts program and plans to use its guidelines for entrance criteria. The guidelines are based on income.

The Pre-K Counts income guidelines allow families who make up to 300% percent of the federal income poverty level to qualify. The 2019 federal poverty level for a family of four is $25,750, which means a family of four could make up to $77,250 and still qualify for a Pre-K Counts program.

Pollino said he doesn’t think being economically disadvantaged equals an inherent need for pre-K, and he worries they’d be leaving out students who don’t meet the income-based requirements.

“I have a lot of concerns,” he said.

Superintendent Pat Graczyk said, if the district ends up not receiving the Pre-K Counts funding, a different kind of structure could be considered. But he recommended the district stick with those criteria because they are clear-cut.

He said districts aren’t required to open a pre-K program to all students because pre-K isn’t a requirement for children in Pennsylvania.

He said about 29 families have expressed interest so far, so space doesn’t appear to be a problem.

William Fleske, who is one of the parents who expressed interest in the program, said he hopes the district will reconsider the income requirements or any developmental screening. Board member Joelle McFarland has said she’d like to see developmental screening as part of the entrance requirements.

Fleske said he doesn’t want his 4-year-old son to be excluded from the program because he and his wife educate him at home, or because they might not meet the income requirements if they work extra shifts at their jobs.

“I don’t need somebody to watch my son. I need somebody to teach my son. And him coming to this school, in my opinion, is the best opportunity for him to have success,” he said. “Whether or not I make a million dollars or $20,000 shouldn’t matter.”

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Emily at 724-226-4680, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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