Pre-K program expanding

Published 2:00 pm Friday, May 20, 2016

The Butler County School System is expanding its pre-K program thanks to a pair of grants totaling more than $130,000.

On Tuesday, Gov. Robert announced over 150 new grants that will provide more than 2,700 additional Alabama four-year-olds with access to voluntary pre-kindergarten.

Dr. Tera Simmons, director of curriculum for the Butler County School System, said the additional $133,200 will allow the system to add another class, while also adding an auxiliary teacher to one of the classes on the Greenville campus.

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The addition of the new class brings the total number of pre-K classes offered in Butler County to nine — five classes in Greenville, two in Georgiana and two in McKenzie.

“This funding is crucial,” Simmons said. “Two weeks ago, the Greenville pre-K teachers met with the kindergarten teachers and administrator at W.O. Parmer Elementary School to ensure that we are equipping the pre-K students with the skills needed to be successful in kindergarten. At this meeting, the dire need for additional pre-K classes was evident. With an average of 10 kindergarten classes at W.O. Parmer and only four Greenville Bright Beginnings pre-K classes, there was still a great number of students that did not have the opportunity to attend pre-K. This grant allows us to serve 18 additional students in Greenville.”

Grants were awarded based on several criteria including local needs, local demand and assurances of high quality standards at the new and expanding pre-K sites. Local match funding of 25 percent will be required.

Remaining grants will be allocated to additional sites based on various needs in the near future.

The additional 155 grants will benefit children in 41 counties across Alabama.

“Alabama First Class Pre-K is a high quality program of excellence that provides children the rich learning experiences that significantly impacts school achievement and life success,” Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education Secretary Jeana Ross said. “The First Class Pre-K program model produces real, sustained results in closing the learning gaps for children and fosters the social, emotional and cognitive development of all children. As the access to this high quality program continues to expand, Alabama will determinedly preserve this standard of quality.”

In his Education Trust Fund budget recommendation, Bentley recommended a $20 million increase for the voluntary pre-K program.  The Legislature approved a $16 million increase.

“Voluntary pre-Kindergarten is a proven program that prepares students for success,” Bentley said. “Only 20 percent of Alabama’s four-year-olds are currently enrolled in the First Class program. Along with the support of legislative funding, we will continue to expand access to this program until every Alabama parent who wants their child to attend has access.”

Parents with children that will be four years old on or before Sept. 1 are encouraged to submit an application for Bright Beginnings.

“Bright Beginnings is a high quality program with excellent lead and auxiliary teachers,” Simmons said.

For more information call (334) 382-2665, ext. 1219.