In Your Opinion: Demand for High Quality Pre-K Prompts Changes to Accommodate Needs

By Ed Potosnak, president, Franklin Township Board of Education.

As we approach the Spring deadline for registering for Preschool at the Franklin Township Schools, I wanted to reach out to the community to provide an update on our offerings to accommodate the popularity of the program.

As you may be aware, we are thrilled to be in a position to offer an expanded Pre-K this year and to have so many families choosing our high quality Pre-K program. Franklin Township Public Schools is committed to early childhood education and believes strongly in the positive effects a quality pre-school program has on the social and academic future of each child. This past year alone the Board authorized $1.3 million be put toward the Pre-K Program.

The early years are critical to ensuring academic success in later years and in improving college and career opportunities. Franklin Township Public School’s Pre-K teachers are highly qualified, our “High Scope” curriculum is aligned with the common core standards, and each student is assessed allowing teachers to ensure individual student needs are identified and supported. A feature particularly popular with parents and guardians is the bus transportation offered to assist in getting children to and from their program.

In addition to providing a full-day kindergarten program for our Franklin children, the district has also provided a general education Pre-K program for the past 15 years. This program, for district children who turn 4 years old on or before October 31st, has evolved over the years from a half-day program to a full- day program offered at all of our elementary schools. In fact, this year we were able to expand the program to include one class housed at Franklin High School.

Over the years, we have been able to grow and sustain our Pre-K Program using State grant money, as well as contributions from our district budget. However, as many families have experienced in the past, we have had to place students on a waiting list and offer others seats in schools outside of their attendance areas with no transportation.

We are preparing to expand the Pre-K Program to accommodate every student next year, in hopes to provide this valuable learning opportunity to even more of our young children, and increase our ability to provide transportation to the students in the program. We anticipate housing four additional Pre-K classrooms in our current facilities next year, largely by re-furbishing classrooms currently serving other grades. This would allow us to offer seats to approximately 64 additional general education students.

Recognizing the importance of Pre-K, the Board set a budget goal of expanding Pre-K. With the 2 percent budget cap in order to service a majority of those eligible in our community, additional funds will be necessary. In January the Board, in addition to committing near the same level of funding for 2016-2017 as it has in previous years, approved charging tuition to those who are eligible to attend a tuition-based program at a set rate of $590 per month. With families qualifying for free or reduced lunch and those with students with special needs receiving Pre-K at no cost.

The rate of $590 per month is almost $100 less than full-day programs offered in neighboring districts and includes transportation. It is important to note that pre-school programs for 4-year old children are also offered in town through daycare centers. The cost of these programs vary depending upon the hours needed. Charges for these programs range from $660 – $720 per month. One facility charges over $1,035 per month for hours comparable to the district Pre-K Program and Transportation to and from these daycare programs is rarely included.

We strongly believe that the Franklin Township Public School District is in the best position to provide the highest quality full-day Pre-K Program. We also believe that in order to service as many students as possible and provide transportation to and from full-day program, a tuition charge comparable to other local facilities is necessary to augment the Board’s commitment of general fund dollars.

Given the economic diversity of our town, we want to be clear that families qualifying for free and reduced lunch and families with special needs children will receive Pre-K at no cost. Please visit http://www.franklinboe.org/Page/105 to learn more about the tuition waiver that is available.

We are confident this Pre-K expansion will allow this very important academic program to provide more preschoolers with a strong start to their academic endeavors.

Again, this expansion will allow more youngsters to attend our Pre-K Program with:

  • Highly qualified Pre-K teachers, earning living wages, health and other benefits
  • A rigorous curriculum aligned with the common core standards
  • Individual needs assessments, academic support and bus transportation

We look forward to answering any questions families have and welcoming more preschoolers to our dynamic Pre-K program. Feel free to call me at home at 732-745-1866 or by email at epotosnak@franklinboe.org!

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