New pre-K program is expanding
Published 7:00 am Friday, May 16, 2014
The new Picayune School District Pre-K collaborative that was awarded $43,000 from the state in December is looking for businesses, organizations and individuals interested in partnering with the program, said Pre-K Collaborative Director Dr. Pamela Thomas.
Thomas said new legislation allowed businesses, organizations and individuals to receive a tax credit for their donation to pre-K programs.
The pre-K program currently has 20 students enrolled and will add 20 more for the 2014-15 school year, Thomas said.
The additional 20 students will require the program to hire another state certified teacher and a teacher’s assistant with an associate’s degree in early childhood education, Thomas said.
Thomas said while she’s excited about the program, which has no parental income requirements, she is concerned about enrollment for the 2014-15 school year.
She said there are currently 60 students on the program’s waiting list, but that list doesn’t include students in the three-year-old program at Picayune Head Start.
Thomas has suggested that parents with children in the three-year-old program fill out an application for the pre-K program. However, she said the program will have to conduct a lottery to ensure acceptance is fair.
Unlike the head start programs in the state, the new pre-K collaborative program is open to any child regardless of the parents’ annual income.
Early Head Start and Head Start currently offer pre-K programs to children, but 90 percent of the children enrolled are required to meet low-income guidelines.
Thomas said the lottery will allow the program to be a mixture of children from every income level.
Another change to the pre-K program will be testing.
The pre-K collaborative program has specific class requirements and guidelines, one of which is kindergarten preparedness testing, Thomas said.
The 20 students currently enrolled in the program did testing this week, Thomas said. Most of the students in the class tested at the transitional reading level, which indicates that child is ready to enter kindergarten.
Thomas is also ensuring the program’s curriculums are aligned with the new Common Core standards so children will be prepared when they enter kindergarten.
“I’m just so excited that the state is now getting on board with early childhood development and the differences it will mean for our state,” Thomas said.
Thomas hopes if the Picayune program is successful that the state will consider expanding the pre-K program to other school districts in the county.
“I’m happy for our community, for our school district and for our state,” Thomas said.
The school district was required to match the state-funding amount and partnered with the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation for the $43,000 match.
Parents and donors interested in learning more about the new pre-K program can call Picayune’s Early Head Start at 601-799-0682.