Friday, March 8, 2013
Sequestration and its impact on Head Start programs is expected to cause an even bigger waiting list for parents who want their children to take part in a pre-school program.
This, Georgetown County School officials say, will mean even more students who need to be in a pre-kindergarten program within the district.
However, there are already many more kids who qualify for a pre-K program than there are spaces available.
That’s why the principals of the district’s elementary schools are hoping the addition of full-day pre-K classes will be a part of the 2013-14 budget the school board will be putting together this spring.
Only four of the county’s nine elementary schools currently offer full-day preschool classes. All offer half-day classes. Most of the half-day classes have 40 students each.
The schools that offer the full-day classes are the schools that are eligible for federal Title One funding. Those are the schools with a large number of low-income students.
Board Chairman Jim Dumm said he is concerned the district will lose Title One funds and other federal money because of the sequester.
Full-day preschool classes have an advantage because students who participate are much better prepared when they begin kindergarten, principals have told the School Board during recent meetings.
During this week’s board meeting, Waccamaw Elementary School principal Vervatine Reid said having full-time classes would help create students who are more ready for the district’s Common Core curriculum.
One cost estimate the board has been given for a full-day class is about $60,000 for a teacher and $30,000 for an assistant.
Preschool programs was an area of concern for former school board member Teresa Bennani. Her successor, Richard Kerr, echoed her sentiments this week saying the district needs to “decide how much is available for the pre-K program.”
Board Member Arthur Lance said state lawmakers have been talking a lot about preschool programs recently. He said he feels that is a sign full-day preschool will eventually become a reality.
James Pasley, director of Waccamaw Economic Opportunity Council — which oversees the Head Start programs in Georgetown, Horry and Williamsburg counties — said there will be no changes in Head Start in the immediate future but, if sequestration forces budget cuts, days of service or the number of students enrolled in the program may have to be cut.
Pasley said the organization could be forced to trim $400,000 from its budget. One option, if that happens, would be to close Head Start Centers up to four weeks before September.
The other option would be to reduce the number of children served by 55-60 students.
He said more will be known after March 27. That is the day the federal government may shut down if a continuing resolution is not passed to keep the current budget in place until September.
By Scott Harper