Friday, May 12, 2006

School district sets pilot year for preschool

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School District board voted unanimously Tuesday, May 9, to pilot a preschool program for the 2006-2007 school year. The district will implement two preschool pilot programs at Bellevue Elementary and the Carey School for 4-year-old students.

"We feel we would like to be ahead of the ball and more in line with the nation," said Mary Gervase, district assistant superintendent. Gervase said research indicates early education provides long-term educational benefits.

Idaho law does not require school districts to provide preschool or kindergarten programs. Allison Westfall, spokeswoman for the State Board of Education, said all school districts in Idaho provide kindergarten programs. Numbers for preschool programs in Idaho were not available.

In its pilot year, the Blaine County preschool program will serve 20 students at each site, with a total of 40 students involved in the program. The program is free to students. The program requires the hiring of two half-time teachers and two half-time aides. The cost of the pilot program is $145,845.

If the board were to expand the preschool to five district schools, Gervase said the cost would be $738,313 for the first year. The initial costs include setting up classrooms, purchasing instructional material and furniture. After full implementation the district would likely see a downward cost adjustment.

Busing of preschool students adds an additional cost. The district will provide busing for preschool students, separate from older students. A paraprofessional will ride the bus to supervise the students.

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