Pleasant Ridge Preschool-1.jpg (copy)

Teacher Brittany Mellum Schoen works with pre-schoolers in her classroom at Pleasant Ridge Elementary, in Charlestown. FILE PHOTO

CLARK COUNTY ­– An overhaul and expansion in the preschool program at Greater Clark County Schools comes at a price.

Parents will see tuition increase by 3,500 percent.

The changes to the preschool program as well as an expansion in the related arts programming and changes on who can teach those classes were discussed at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

PRESCHOOL OVERHAUL

With the current preschool program, parents who don’t qualify for reduced rates pay $150 per school year for the part-time preschool program, taught by certified teachers.

The program is changing to full-day, but doesn’t guarantee students having a certified teacher, according to Brooke Lannan, director of special populations for GCCS. She said transportation will be provided and that students will ride the bus with the rest of the elementary students to and from school daily. However, the cost will be $150 per week, which is $5,400 per year, Lannan said.

The school board voted 7-0 in favor of the change during the board meeting Tuesday night.

Lannan said this change will allow for the district to serve 60 additional students each year. She said the cost is the same as neighboring New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., which already offers a full-day preschool program.

“Research shows us that high-quality, early childhood programs prepare children for future success in school,” Lannan told the board, adding that they have better test scores and increased enrollment in advanced courses.

The current program includes special education and general education students in the same classrooms, taught by a certified teacher. The new program will have four specific schools that will still teach special education students and general education students together. Those classes will be taught by certified teachers. The rest of the six schools’ programs will be taught by child development associates, who have received their CDA certification, Lannan said.

Though the rate has jumped dramatically, parents who qualify for On My Way Pre-K funding can qualify for a grant that will pay more than the tuition fees, at $171.60 per week. That funding is provided by the state and will go directly to the school district. However, families must earn less than 127 percent of the federal poverty level. Also, to qualify, all parents in the household must be working, going to school or attending job training, according to in.gov/fssa. Erica Woodward, project manager for On My Way Pre-K, said the “working” qualification doesn’t need to be full-time or even part-time, saying people may work as little as an hour a week or even month.

Lannan said the previous program was paid in part by federal funds. However, she said that didn’t cover all the necessary costs.

Woodward said this program opens up options for low-income families.

“Low-income children will now have access to a high-quality, full-day classroom setting, leading to being kindergarten ready on day one,” Woodward said to the school board.

Grants will be given on a first come, first serve basis, Woodward said. She said 3,500 students received grants in 2019, a number capped by the state legislature. She said applications will open as early as March, statewide. To learn more about the grant, go to in.gov/fssa.

RELATED ARTS CHANGES

Superintendent Mark Laughner read a statement to the board, stating that he will keep the existing certified teachers in related arts – such as art, music, P.E. and technology – leading those classes. In addition, he said the program will be expanded to ensure each GCCS student receives all the related arts classes one day per week or the equivalent.

Previously, Laughner had talked about a money saving effort that would change those certified teaching positions to classified specialists. He said going forward, he will seek certified teachers for any related arts openings. He said if a certified teacher cannot be found to fill a vacant role, a specialist with experience in that field may be considered.

Also, for the 2020-21 school year, the district will hire four extra duty positions to receive a stipend for the coordination and collaboration to create consistent lessons and programming in the related arts classes across the elementary schools, Laughner said.

Also at the meeting:

• The board voted to make Janelle Fitzpatrick serve as president, Katie Hutchinson as vice president and Milt Clayton as secretary.

• Pam Hall will serve as interim principal at Jeffersonville High School, following the unanimous passing of the personnel report. Hall, who previously worked as JHS’ assistant principal, will take the spot vacated by Julie Straight. Straight left the principal role to work as the district’s academy/career and technical education (CTE) coordinator.

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