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Education: District plans to add all-day pre-K classes in new budget

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

It costs $90,000 to run a full-day pre-K class in Georgetown County schools. Who pays the cost depends on where the school is located. And that makes it hard to know what the district will have to pay for additional full-day pre-K classes that elementary school principals and other school officials say are needed.

What makes the issue complicated is that the four county elementary schools that have full-day pre-K all use federal funds for those classes.

The money is allocated for schools with a high enrollment of low income students under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Title I funds may not take the place of local funds. So if the district offers full-day pre-K in a school like Waccamaw Elementary that doesn’t qualify for Title I funding, it can’t use Title I funds to offer that class in a school that does qualify.

The rule is known as “supplement, not surplant.”

“That would make the program larger than just adding a few schools,” Patti Hammel, the district’s director of federal programs, told the school board last week. “That isn’t to say we would not really like to add those programs.”

The district staff will present a draft of the 2014 budget to the board next week. Superintendent Randy Dozier said he is still working on a plan to stay within the federal guidelines while adding full-day pre-K in at least some of the five schools that don’t have those classes.

“I think what you have to do is even it out,” he said. “I’d really like to add some more classes. That’s the plan.”

Andrews, McDonald, Browns Ferry and Plantersville offer the full-day.

For working families, half-day pre-K isn’t an option because no one is available to care for the children when they are out of school.

“I have people coming in here every day that would like to be in full-day pre-K,” Dozier said. “For us, it’s primarily about instruction; getting them ready and keeping them ready.”

He said principals have told him they can see a difference in school readiness with full-day pre-K students.

But Dozier believes the difference will also become apparent over the long-term.

“People say they all catch up at third grade. I must have missed that. They don’t all catch up,” he said. Some end up in special needs classes or require tutoring. “They struggle their whole career.”

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