Parents of infants in the North Shore School District will be happy to hear that next year marks the first time the district will offer a Universal pre-K course at all three elementary schools under their jurisdiction. Thanks to a New York state education grant, children too young to begin kindergarten will be able to learn and socialize with fellow toddlers in the next scholastic year.
The grant being awarded is from the Office of Early Learning and the Office of State Aid. Chris Zublionis, the district’s superintendent, said North Shore was awarded it in the spring, along with several other neighboring districts.
The district’s initial plan was to use the money from the grant to pay for local children to attend pre-existing preschools for the year, as North Shore was initially concerned that operating a pre-K program would provide too many challenges. But no preschools responded to the district’s RFP, as the grant gives the district $5,400 per pre-K student to defray the costs of educating the children, and according to Zublionis, most preschools in the area cost between $9,000 to $10,000 a year.
“We plan to try and find space in our own buildings, and work with a provider that would come into the school,” Zublionis continued. “We did have SCOPE respond to our RFP, so we’re having SCOPE come in to teach two of the classrooms.”
SCOPE Education Services is a non-profit organization founded in 1964 which provides educational services to school districts in the state. In addition to running sports and scholastic programs throughout the year, SCOPE also organizes pre-K programs for numerous districts throughout New York.
Currently the plan is for there to be three pre-K classes, one in Glen Head, Glenwood Landing and Sea Cliff Elementary, respectively. Each class will have an estimated 18 children, determined by a universal lottery which closed this past Monday.
Although the district has not had the opportunity to count the lottery yet, Zublionis and members of the Board of Education are optimistic that there will be space for everyone. Dave Ludmar, president of the Board of Education, said the school district had been discussing adding a pre-K program for some time, but due to the LIPA case and other financial concerns they had been unable to implement it.
“Given our financial situation, it had not been something that we had envisioned being able to fit into our budget,” Ludmar said. “So when the grant came through, in a rather unexpected way, we were pleasantly surprised.”
Now, thanks to the grant, 52 local children will be able to get a head start on their academic career in the 2023-24 school year. This can have major positive impacts on children’s development, as studies, such as by the Urban Child Institute, have shown that pre-K attendees tend to acquire literacy, language and math skills faster than non-participating children.
Furthermore, it provides many toddlers with the chance to engage with children their own age and develop key social skills. After the coronavirus pandemic forced many families to keep their children virtually isolated from the outside world, these skills are especially important to nurture.
Andrea Macari, vice president of the Board of Education, explained that getting kids to engage early, will better prepare them to succeed as they get older.
“Preschool is a time of rapid development and there is a solid body of science that supports Universal pre-K outcomes, such as increased high school graduation rates and college attendance and decreased behavioral problems,” Macari said. “But more importantly, a child’s first exposure to school can spark a lifetime of curiosity, a love of learning and strong bonds with peers and teachers.”