new preschool program at Franklin schools is expected to fill up before it opens, with dozens more area families still interested in finding early childhood classes for their children.
A preschool program at Greenwood schools is filling up, and officials hope to see even more families sign up.
Right now, nearly all Johnson County public school districts have some kind of preschool program, and most were started within the past three years. Some programs have room for about a dozen students, while others have nearly 100 enrolled.
Greenwood currently has
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31 students enrolled, but officials hope to double that by fall.
Even with the added programs, parents are still looking for options for where they can send their children so they can be prepared for the reading, writing and math lessons they’ll start in kindergarten, Johnson County Learning Centers executive director Dawn Underwood said.
Preschool programs can be essential in helping prepare young students for kindergarten. For example, Franklin schools partnered with Johnson County Learning Centers
three years ago after school officials became concerned that less than half of incoming students were prepared for kindergarten.
But a key issue for Johnson County parents is finding a preschool program they can afford, Underwood said.
“I still think there’s a need for affordable preschool so that all children have the opportunity to attend,” Underwood said. “We can always continue to do better about creating the awareness of the importance of early childhood (education).”
Programs at local schools vary from half-day to full-day classes. Some programs meet two or three days per week, and others meet all five days. For example, parents in Greenwood can send their students to the school district’s half-day preschool two days a week for $90 a month. Parents sending their students to the new preschool program Franklin is starting in the fall will pay $75 a week for half-day classes because the program runs for the full week.
But Underwood worries whether all the families who want to send their children to preschool can afford those prices. That’s why the learning center will continue its own preschool program after it ends its partnership with Franklin at the end of the school year.
Franklin schools and the learning center have partnered to provide preschool for students since 2012, and families attending the program can qualify for scholarships, which are paid for by fundraisers, endowments and with some of the money paid by families who are charged full price for the program, Underwood said.
Franklin school officials decided they wanted to take over the preschool and update the program by the start of the 2015-16 school year. School officials want to be sure students’ transition from preschool to kindergarten is seamless, and Franklin is updating the lessons that preschoolers will be taught each day to ensure they align with the reading and math lessons they’ll learn in kindergarten, Northwood Elementary School Principal Katie Crites said.
“We wanted to provide that early childhood foundation for students coming into Franklin schools or any other children who were interested in a quality program,” Crites said.
Officials also have said the new program could help make money, possibly $200,000 annually, for the school district.
Last month, school officials asked parents if they wanted to sign up their children for the program, and 210 families said yes, Crites said.
But the school district won’t be able to offer financial aid to low-income families next year, which cut the number of interested families in half, Crites said.
The new preschool program will have to fund itself, meaning the school district cannot use any of the money it receives from the state or from property taxes to pay for preschool classes. Franklin is hiring certified teachers to ensure the program qualifies for Indiana’s Paths to Quality program, which could qualify Franklin for funding in the future, which lower costs for parents, Crites said. Franklin’s new preschool will also accept Child Care and Development Fund vouchers, which is federal aid that helps low-income families afford child care.
But for now, that means most parents will need to pay the full cost of preschool, Crites said.
Franklin officials have enough room for 60 to 80 preschool students, who will attend class at Webb, Creekside or Northwood elementary schools. Parents can register their students for the program later this month.
Underwood wants to be sure that low-income families in Franklin have a preschool option for their children, which is why the learning center will move its preschool program. Details are being worked out, but Underwood hopes to serve about 60 families, and the plan is to continue to provide scholarships for low-income families.
“Families in Franklin can continue to have affordable preschool programing; and families who can’t afford it,
we will have scholarships for,” she said.
The learning center also partners with Greenwood schools, which opened a preschool program for students this month.
Thirty-one parents have signed their students up for the new half-day preschool program, and the preschool has room for nine more students, Underwood said.
Greenwood and the learning centers can’t provide scholarships to low-income families this semester, but Underwood hopes that will change next semester. She and Superintendent Kent DeKoninck also want to be able to increase the number of students in the program and to expand the program to include a full-day class.
“For a short-term turnaround, we’re pretty happy with our numbers,” DeKoninck said. “Our hope is, here in the spring, as we look toward next year, we’ll be able to come up with full-day options for people.”
Between now and the end of the current school year, the Greenwood preschool’s teachers will track how much students learn in reading and counting lessons. Officials will talk with parents about how they feel the preschool program is progressing and will make any necessary changes in the fall, DeKoninck and Underwood said.
Greenwood’s contract with the learning center runs through the 2015-2016 school year, and right now school officials want to learn as much as they can from the learning center about how to create a successful program, DeKoninck said.
Here’s a look at changes coming to the preschool at Franklin schools and at the new preschool that launched in Greenwood:
Full-day: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Half-day: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Day care: Available from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Schedule: All classes meet Monday through Friday.
Weekly fees: $155 for full-day; $75 for half-day
Half-day: 9 to 11:30 a.m.
Monthly fees: $90 for Tuesday/Thursday classes; $120 for Monday/Wednesday/Friday classes
Here are the registration details for Franklin’s new preschool program:
When: 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 20 and 21
Where: Northwood Elementary School, 965 Grizzly Cub Drive, Franklin
What to bring: $50 deposit