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By JEAN JONES
MAURICE RIVER TWP. – School administrators say compliance with another state mandate for schools will be almost impossible for small, rural districts.
In a presentation to the Maurice River Board of Education on Tuesday, teacher Kathleen McGlynn outlined what will be required and the timeline to be followed for the five-year, full-day expanded preschool program that is mandated to begin in 2009.
McGlynn said that next year, the district is expected to serve 20 percent of the projected population with full-day preschool.
At the end of five years, 90 percent of the population is expected to be served.
The projected popuation will be computed by doubling the number of students currently in first grade.
The timeline calls for two classes of 4-year-olds next year and three classes in the second and third years.
The fourth year would require one class of 3 year olds and three of 4 year olds, increasing to three classes of 3 year olds and four classes of 4 year olds in the fifth year.
Classes are capped at 15, and each class must have a teacher certified to teach preschool and one aide.
Each district also must have a master teacher, with no teaching responsibilities, a Preschool Intervention and Referral Team, a Community and Parent involvement specialist and a Childhood Advisory Council to help children transition into preschool and through grade 3.
Superintendent John Saporito said the program will take classrooms the school doesn’t have.
“Every classroom is being used to provide instruction. We would have to sacrifice classrooms. I don’t see how we could service 3- and 4-year-old classes in this building. We’re a small district. It would cost a lot of money to initiate this. I don’t know where the money is going to come from,” he said.
Business administrator Patricia Powell said trailers are a possibility, but they would have to be approved each year.
An addition is not feasible.
The only option would be to outsource the program to a private entity or another school district.
“They are encouraging us to go to private providers,” McGlynn said.
The program is voluntary for parents, and McGlynn said she expects more interest by parents when they find the current half-day program is moving to a full day.
Special-needs students will be given first priority.
She suggested that the best way to choose the students for the first year might be a lottery, to be held at a school board meeting.
She also suggested that it would be best to leave one or two slots open in each class for students moving into the district.
Since there is an absolute cap of 15 per class, with no exceptions, a 16th student would require setting up another class.
In another matter, a group of seventh- and eighth-grade students asked for an after-school club for students who are not at risk but want to do homework together, collaborate on projects and work with their peers.
The students said the student council would be willing to raise funds for supplies.
“The kids are expressing to us ways they can be successful,” said teacher Leia Ellis.
They would like to use the computer lab and cafeteria and would like to start the second or third week in November and continue until the middle of April.
Saporito said he thought it was a great idea. A teacher would have to be found who is willing to stay after school and oversee the group.