About a dozen 4-year-olds have been indentified as qualifying for a full-day pre-school program within the Gasconade County R-1 School District.
The aim of the program, which was given the green light last week by the R-1 Board of Directors, is to prepare the youngsters to be ready to learn when they enter kindergarten at age 5.
The move in R-1 comes as the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) renews its commitment to early-childhood education programs.
According to information presented to the R-1 board at earlier sessions, local elementary teachers are noticing an inability to learn on the part of students entering kindergarten. A full-day pre-school could lay the foundation for an improved ability to learn when the children enter kindergarten.
In her report to the board last week, Superintendent Tracey Hankins noted that 10 youngsters have been screened for the full-day program and three for the half-day program. There are another five youngsters identified but not screened as of Hankins’ report at the regular monthly board session.
The pre-school program is somewhat different from the early-childhood programs already in place. There are seven students in the 3-year-old program offering Early Childhood Special Education services and three youngsters in the 4-year-old ECSE program.
The ECSE programs are reimbursable from the state, but the regular 4-year-old pre-school program is not, which means the cost of the program will be shouldered by the district.
To help offset that cost, there will be a tuition assessed to the parents. The full-day program’s $20-per-day ($100-per-week) cost will be waived if the student’s family qualifies for the National School Lunch Program, the program that provides the free and reduced-price lunches.
The morning-session-only program will have a cost of $10 per day or $50 per week.
About half the students now enrolled in R-1 qualify for the program.
The other cost not recoverable from the state is the expense of transportation. At the time of the report to the board, it was anticipated at least five students would need to ride the bus.
A concern for R-1 officials is having 4-year-olds on a bus with older students and whether the buses are equipped to accommodate the pre-school students.
If the 4-year-olds need to be buckled up (and unbuckled), that likely would mean another set of hands to help secure the students — allowing the driver to remain at the wheel of the bus.
That aspect of transportation will be researched by administrators. “We have to make sure we’re following (state education) department requests,” said Hermann Elementary School Principal Kendra Brune.