May 27, 2021: District explores offering prekindergarten
Jamesville-DeWitt Central School District officials are anticipating that the district may be able to offer a full-day universal prekindergarten program for four-year-olds during the 2021-22 school year.
“This is really a wonderful opportunity for the school district to expand its mission to include our community’s youngest children and give them a solid foundation on which to begin their educational careers,” J-D Superintendent Peter Smith said.
The New York state adopted budget includes $388,800 for the district to use toward operating a full-day prekindergarten program in the 2021-22 school year. The district recently learned that the state has committed money toward the program for a total of three years via federal funding.
Many districts, including J-D, first learned that state officials allocated the 2021-22 pre-K money when they adopted the state budget in April. Recognizing that there was not enough time to create and launch a quality program by September, and with concerns that the funds would only be available for one year, J-D administrators thought they would have to pass up the funding.
Now, with a guarantee of multi-year funding and the flexibility to begin the program mid-year so there is enough time to develop a quality program, district officials are moving forward with investigating how and when to launch a prekindergarten program.
“We are excited about this opportunity. The district offering a prekindergarten program has been something we know the board of education, our administrators and our families have long been interested in,” Smith said. “While we still have a lot of research to do, we feel like we are on a good path toward making this a reality.”
The district has been working closely with state officials and other area superintendents who are also navigating the possibility of launching pre-K programs next year. They are in the process of researching a number of issues, including transportation and whether the district has space available to house pre-K classrooms in its schools and operate the program itself or partner with a community based organization already offering a prekindergarten program that could house and run the district’s program.
At this point, it is unclear how many students the district would be able to accommodate, but if there is a higher demand than enrollment slots, the district would utilize a lottery system to place students.
The timing of the funding complements the district’s 2020-25 Strategic Plan, which calls for the district to determine during the 2021-22 the feasibility and appropriateness of implementing a universal pre-K program as part of the district’s efforts to support student achievement.
“We won’t have a program ready for September, but we are hopeful to begin registering students in late fall or early winter for a mid-year start,” Smith said. “As we move forward, we will continue to communicate our progress with the board and share information with the greater community via our website.”