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Lanesborough Schools Opts For 'School-based' Pre-K Program

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
03:23AM / Monday, March 10, 2014
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Director of Pupil Services Kim Grady said she didn't have enough interest in town to fill the minimum needs for a full year, agency-based program.

LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The School Committee opted to reinstate a school-based preschool program after comparing alternatives.

Last year, the program ran a deficit and school officials opted to close it down.

But faced with public opposition, they vowed to re-examine the options and find a way to bring it back in the fall of 2014.

A committee has been looking at agency-based, school-based and community-based models.

Initially, the agency model was the front-runner but administrators heard feedback against the move.

According to Director of Pupil Services Kim Grady, there weren't enough parents interested in the agency model to fill the requirements of 50 weeks (which includes the summers), with 15 families paying for full days.

"We can't offer a menu to our parents," Superintendent Rose Ellis said told the School Committee last week, adding that it wasn't that the agency wasn't good but rather it didn't offer enough options to fill the program. "I thought this was more restrictive."

Additionally, she identified more students with special needs, for whom the school would be required to pay, and with the longer year and days, it became more costly to go with the agency model.

"We need to look at both and we're actually thinking the school-based may actually be better financially for the school," Ellis said. "One of the reasons we are moving away from the agency is because our parents weren't too excited about it."

A school-based model hires its own teachers and operates as the rest of the school — with vacations and summer off. The school will be adding half-day programs and offering a sliding scale, or reduced charges, to families who quality for free or reduced lunch.

"I think a sliding scale program is a key part of that," Chairman Robert Barton said. "I would want to vote in favor of school-based with a sliding scale, using the Williamstown model of using free and reduced lunch."

The town will need to subside those costs at some $30,000, Barton said. Costs will be wrapped into the school's budget but operate from its own line item, which it hadn't been before. Committee member Regina DiLego said that by keeping the program in its own budget line, they will be able to monitor and try to grow that program.

"If we want to make a great school better, we should be moving toward free pre-K," she said.

Tuition would cost $180 a week for a full week, $18 for half days and $36 for a full day. Special-needs students attend for free. The classes need a minimum of 12 children but can accept up to 20. So far 17 families have signed up for the March 12 and March 13 screenings and more can still apply by getting in touch with the district.

"The tuition is based on a low number, based on the number of students who have shown interest in screenings," Grady said. "We can take up to 20 students a session."

Lanesborough students will have first dibs at the spots but families from New Ashford are also welcomed. The sliding scale pricing, however, is only for Lanesborough families.


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