GUILFORD, Maine — SAD 4 directors next week will hear a proposal to use one-time federal stimulus funds to start a prekindergarten program in collaboration with Head Start next fall.
Superintendent Paul Stearns said Thursday that the half-day program would, if approved by directors, serve 20 children in each of the morning and afternoon sessions. While the district would be expected to fund the program after the first year, Stearns said, the additional children would mean more state subsidy funds. There is a possibility that the program also could be offered to surrounding districts to raise additional revenue, he said.
“This is an ideal use of one-time money,” Stearns said. Every statistic and every bit of data suggest that early intervention with children is the best investment schools can make, he said.
The federal Title I funds can be targeted for assistance programs or schoolwide programs. The former provide for only those pupils identified with needs in reading and mathematics, while the latter provide for all children, according to Stearns. As such, the federal funds would provide for a teacher for the pre-kindergarten class.
Stearns said the program would be available to all 4-year-olds in SAD 4. Those pupils eligible for Head Start would continue to receive the extra services that Head Start provides but they would be embedded within the new program, he explained. Transportation would be provided.
The proposal is to house the prekindergarten program in the Guilford Primary School. The district would lease space from the town. Directors and district residents voted to close the school at the end of this school year as part of a consolidation process. Guilford residents voted to accept the title to the building and town officials plan to rent out the space.
The district also plans to lease space in the Guilford Primary School for its Learning For Life program, an alternative high school program. That program now operates in the former Abbie Fowler School in Sangerville, but residents have voted to demolish that building.
To those who question why directors moved to close the primary school when space is needed for programs, Stearns said it would be much cheaper for the district to lease space for the programs than it would have been to continue to maintain and operate the primary school.
Initially, Stearns said, the proposal was to hold the pre-kindergarten program in the superintendent’s office and relocate the superintendent’s office into portable classrooms. This would have cost about $40,000. Renting the nearby space, however, would cost the district less money over time, he said.
As to the safety of housing the children in a building that would have other tenants not associated with the school, Stearns said there should be no problem. The children would have direct supervision.