State gives Germantown ‘tentative’ OK for pre-k funds

GERMANTOWN—The Little Clippers full-day prekindergarten program, new to the Germantown Central School District, looks like a go. Tuesday, September 9 the district holds an information meeting for the families of 33 potential students for the program.

September 24 is orientation, and the program begins on Wednesday, October 1, a month ahead of its original schedule.

Staff and volunteers in the district have spent months researching and planning the Little Clippers program. Crucial to the start-up is a $380,000 grant “tentatively” awarded last month by the state Education Department. Jeanne Dolamore, the new principal of the elementary school, and Susan Brown, district superintendent, wrote the grant proposal.

Asked about “tentatively,” Ms. Brown said Tuesday that “every indication is that we are listed as an awardee. But I hesitate to use language other than what I have on paper from the state.”

The grant will support the program for a year for up to 38 students. After that, said Ms. Brown, the state will inspect the program in consideration of continued funding. “We intend to impress the inspectors with our program so that the state will continue to fund it,” she said.

Two teachers and three teaching assistants will staff the double-classroom space, located in the primary grades wing of the school.

In anticipation of the grant, a team of teachers worked over the summer to develop the pre-k curriculum. Starting last spring, a committee of volunteers visited prekindergarten programs in the region and then made nuts-and-bolts recommendations such as equipment and scheduling.

The summer issue of News Clippings, the district’s newsletter, included a survey of interest for district families of children who would be four years old before December 1. The survey generated a list of 33 potential students. “We’re thrilled with this amount of interest,” said Ms. Brown.

In addition to being available online, the newsletter with the survey was mailed. In a district consisting of all or parts of six towns (Germantown, Livingston, Clermont, Gallatin, Ancram and Taghkanic) mailing can be complicated.

“Beginning with the special budget edition of the newsletter last April, we changed the method of how we reach residents in the district,” said Ms. Brown. “We’re working with the USPS to identify their routes that likely include our district residents.”

Tax rolls aren’t enough, she explained, “Our effort is to reach the actual residents, who may be renters. We want to reach all stakeholders in the district.” Circulation for the budget and summer issues was 4,200.

The district is also trying to learn the number of four-year-old children who live there. “We look at the last census data, but it’s complicated by the layout of the district, and people moving in and out. We’re always looking for cleaner data,” said Ms. Brown.

During the school year, the newsletter is also sent home with students. But the goal is to mail it to all.

Ms. Brown urged parents of four-year-olds with “any interest whatsoever” in this year’s pre-k program to call Ms. Dolamore at 518 537-6281 ext. 304. They are invited to fill out a survey, return it and attend the September 9 information meeting, at 6:30 p.m. in the school at 123 Main Street.

“At that point, I anticipate that families will make a decision about registering children for the program,” said Ms. Brown. The district had only been waiting for guidance from the state, she said, and having received it, she is “very excited” about the earlier, October 1 start date for the program.

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