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Covering Pre-K expenses
by Jacob Lane · January 02, 2014

During the school board meeting Monday, Dec. 16, representatives of the Early Learning Center (ELC) spoke with the board about the importance of all-day pre-school.

"If we did not offer preschool all day we feel like we would miss the opportunity to serve all of our district's kids because of barriers," Early Learning Director Missy Johnson said.

There hasn't been any talk about shortening preschool; however, the costs for maintaining an all-day program are exceeding the revenue brought in.

According to Superintendent Steve Hanson, preschool is considered a separate entity from other grades, for the 2013/14 school year it will cost around $680,000 to keep it running.

All-day preschool was implemented in the district a few years ago. Since the Iowa Core adds its own standards on top of the the federal government's demands of Pre-K, requirements and expectations of students have risen drastically in the last few years.

In response, more students go through Pre-K a second time in order to meet the standards in West Liberty. Right now the Early Learning Center is running at its maximum capacity of students.

"What I teach has changed so much, the curriculum that I present to my kindergarteners is so different now then it was even 10 years ago, I'm teaching what would have been first grade curriculum years ago," Kindergarten teacher Lori Hudson said. "It would scare me to think how little my kids could achieve without a full-day program, it's already a lot of work."

ELC Director Johnson also talked about the many needs that are met through a full day of school, needs that would fall to the side if it were to revert back to half-days.

"We do not have very many families that work in town that have the capability of coming and getting their children," said Johnson. "We also do not have very many daycare providers that will take partime children. We feel like this is a need in the community that we are meeting at this time."

The board will begin discussion on how to bridge the gap between revenue and expenses in the upcoming year, including the possibility of raising tuition. Schools in Iowa only receive half the funding from the state per student in pre-school as opposed to students kindergarten and up.

However, many at the meeting made it clear that educating children at a young age is fundamental in helping their growth in later years.

"I'm sincerely convinced from everything I've read about preschool…that if you're going to make an investment anywhere in ages 4 to 21, that investing money in 4-year-olds is your most solid investment," Hanson said.

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