Massena Central School District using federal funding for full-day pre-kindergarten program

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Jul. 2—MASSENA — The Massena Central School District plans to use $674,880 in federal pre-kindergarten funding to convert from a half-day to a full-day program.

Superintendent Patrick Brady said the district currently receives $207,006 in pre-kindergarten funding, which supports 46 half-day students, or 23 full-day students.

"$207,000 does not cover our total cost. The district does put in money for pre-K," he said.

The new funding would allow them to bring in 64 full-day students, which combined with the 23 full-day students would bring them to a total of 87.

"We don't get that funding up front. We get paid per student," Mr. Brady said.

But, he said, since the funding is based on usage, the district would not receive $10,545 for every student under 87.

"So it's important that we try to get as many students in as possible," he said, noting that a pre-kindergarten program increases kindergarten readiness by providing more time to develop student language and literacy, thinking skills, self-control and self-confidence.

Mr. Brady said the district surveyed parents and received 72 responses. Of those, 60 parents, or 83%, said they would be interested in a full-day pre-kindergarten program.

"So there is an interest out there. We already currently have 67 students that are signed up for pre-K and we know that grows over the summer," he said.

Past pre-kindergarten enrollment included 91 students in 2015-16, 94 students in 2016-17, 100 students in 2017-18, 105 students in 2019-20 and 46 students in 2020-21. He said he recognized that some students may not be ready for a full-day program and would not participate.

He said, with the additional funding, they were recommending the conversion to full-day pre-kindergarten in all three elementary schools. That would require the addition of three teachers and teacher assistants at a cost of $465,000. The cost of additional equipment, supplies and curriculum would be $39,000.

However, the conversion would eliminate approximately $29,000 in mid-day transportation costs, Mr. Brady said.

Separately, the district will also receive $8.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding.

"It's a broad range that these funds can be used for. We need to target them and leverage them as strategically as we can so we can make the most of them," he said.

He said 20% of the funds need to be used for learning loss.

"We know that when students return, there's going to be issues with learning loss. Many of our students were either hybrid or remote (instruction). There were some students who did well under those venues. But, by and large, many of our students did not. We saw a rise in failures and a rise in students not meeting standards," Mr. Brady said.

He said they did a community survey to obtain recommendations on how to use the federal funding to improve learning and support the district's operations. He said 198 people responded to the survey.

"That's a good measure. Many of them were staff members. Many of them were also parents and guardians," Mr. Brady said.

The top five choices were to provide academic supports and intervention services during the day; meet student mental health needs and social-emotional learning; projects to improve the indoor air quality in facilities or reduce virus transmission; expand after-school programming; and provide grade level-specific tutoring services.

He said they were already addressing the indoor air quality and virus transmission through work being done during the current capital project.

"We're putting in new mechanical systems and filtration systems," Mr. Brady said.

The proposed use of the funding includes the addition of a reading intervention teacher, two academic intervention teacher assistants and a technology teacher or teacher assistant at the high school, as well as a math intervention teacher, reading intervention teacher, academic intervention teacher assistant, an increase in a library media specialist position to full time, and supplies and professional development to "re-envision" the special education program at the junior high.

Also on the list are three academic intervention teacher assistants per elementary school, and a director of academic support services, two school social workers, supplies for after-school programs and transportation for after-school programs at the district level.

Other considerations that are under review are elementary summer school, special education needs, professional development, and math and English language arts coaching.

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