Lanesborough Bringing Back Pre-K Program

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The School Committee met on Tuesday to discuss the options they have for bringing the program back to the school.

LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — After a year off, there will be a preschool program at Lanesborough Elementary in the fall.

But how it will operate is still under consideration. The School Committee is expecting to decide between bringing back the school-based program or bringing in Berkshire Children and Families to operate one.

The agency-based model with Berkshire Children and Families seems to be the front runner if they can work out an agreement. Director of Pupil Personnel Services Kim Grady says they already provide exemplary and accredited programming in other schools.

Berkshire Children and Families also has the ability to attract children from outside of town and has close links to service agencies. The program would operate out of the school, according to Grady.

"They do what pre-K is, it is not a glorified baby-sitter," Kim Grady said, countering some concerns she heard about the model.

The model is fully accredited and keeps the district from the growing costs that led to the original closure of the program. Two years ago the school cut the program in half and last year eliminated it all together. However, with the closure, school officials vowed to find a successful model.

"The pre-K was suspended last year in June for enrollment and budget reasons," School Committee Chairman Robert Barton said.

The school and the town formed committees to look over different models. The program was intended to pay for itself through tuition, but expenses grew and not all of the tuition was being paid. The tuition rate kept growing leading to a decline in enrollment.

Bringing back that model, according to Grady, would mean the school's budget would have to compensate for those expenses. Additionally, that cost will grow because of contractual agreements each year.

"To be fiscally responsible, I can't afford to be $40,000-$50,000 in the hole," Grady told the committee.

It will still cost the town money to bring in an agency model and the committee is pouring over the numbers to find out the best model, including providing cost help to residents and whether it should be full-day or half-day programming. Barton said the final decision is expected to be made in March.

"The money is an issue," Barton said, comparing the options.

Meanwhile, the enrollment numbers are looking positive. Grady said 26 families have been identified through the census who might enroll in the program and the school needs 15 children to make it work. The cost would be $120 a week for full-day programs, giving the agency enough income to make it work. The space in the school caps enrollment at 20 pupils.

"It feels as if we have quite a bit of interest," Barton said.

Another community-based model was put on the back burner Tuesday because those involved did not feel the town would approve it. That model would have the town hire the employees to run the program out of the school. But school officials expect that to be rejected because of the perceived differences between the town's and school's budgeting process.

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