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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Addison's all-day pre-k thrives under 1 roof

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    • What other districts are doing

      In addition to Addison Central School District, many other local districts also offer full-day pre-K classes.
      • The Corning-Painted Post School District offers a pre-K program through...

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      What other districts are doing

      In addition to Addison Central School District, many other local districts also offer full-day pre-K classes.

      • The Corning-Painted Post School District offers a pre-K program through ProAction’s Head Start program, funded by both ProAction and a universal pre-K grant. The district currently has four pre-K classrooms divided among four elementary schools: Erwin Valley, Frederick Carder, Calvin U. Smith and Hugh W. Gregg.

      • The Horseheads School District offers three full-day pre-K classes, funded by a universal pre-K grant. The classrooms are currently spread out between Big Flats, Center Street and Ridge Road elementary schools.

      • The Bath Central School district currently has six full-day pre-K classes at Vernon E. Wightman Elementary School funded by a traditional universal pre-K grant, as well as an expanded universal pre-K grant, which the district was recently awarded.

      For more information regarding pre-K programs in the Corning-Painted Post School District, contact ProAction Head Start at 776-2125, Ext. 201. For pre-K programs in Addison, Bath and Horseheads central school districts, contact the districts directly.

  • With significant funding allocated to universal prekindergarten in its 2014-15 budget - $300 million in New York City and $40 million upstate - New York is one step closer to making universal all-day pre-K available statewide.
    However, many school districts in Steuben County and its surrounding communities offer all-day pre-K, and have for many years. One local school has taken its pre-K program to the next level by giving it a building of its own.
    The Valley Early Childhood School in Addison, formerly known as Valley Elementary School, recently reopened its doors as a school strictly for three- and four-year-olds.
    Though the Addison Central School District has offered pre-K programs - morning, afternoon and all day - for the past 20 years, this school year marks the first that all seven all-day classrooms are under the same roof.
    “We were a divided program. I had some classes out here at Valley Elementary and I had some at Tuscarora Elementary,” said Deborah Flint, principal of Valley Early Childhood and Tuscarora Elementary schools. “So this is the first time in 20 years that the program’s been all together.”
    Pre-K classes began in the district in 1993 as one classroom in a small trailer outside of Tuscarora Elementary. Taught by Beth DeLaurel and assisted by Anna Mae Gardner, the program began as a partnership with ProAction’s Head Start program, which gives young children the opportunity to successfully transition to kindergarten.
    As the program grew, it formed two branches - one at each elementary school in Addison. Then, in 2008, the district received an Early Reading First Grant from the federal government - a three-year grant of $2.7 million, allowing the district to expand their pre-K program to three- year-olds and extend half-day classes to full days.
    For Superintendent Joe DioGuardi, implementing a program expansion wasn’t difficult; keeping it going would be the real test.
    “When we received the grant, we were thinking right away, ‘How will we be able to sustain this program after the grant monies go away?’” DioGuardi said. “Because that’s what grants are for: providing the seed money to start a program that will continue after the grant funds dry up.”
    When Valley Elementary School attendance started to diminish, the district implemented a plan to move the remaining children - kindergartners and first graders - to Tuscarora Elementary, turning Valley into a pre-K school and allowing the district to keep the pre-K program.
    “Our focus was to keep the program going, keep it a full day, keep it at three- and four-year-olds, and now we have the building to do that,” DioGuardi said.
    Nearing the end of Valley Elementary’s first year as Valley Early Childhood School, the district’s pre-K program is still going strong. Currently funded by a universal pre-K grant through New York state, as well as ProAction’s Head Start program, 110 three- and four-year-olds are spread out over seven classrooms and the school’s hallways buzz with activity.
    Page 2 of 2 - “The building is full, it’s vibrant, it’s fun,” Flint said. “You get a good feeling when you come in.”
    But “fun” doesn’t mean all play and no work; the children at Valley have access to computers and technology, and are progress-monitored, receiving report cards on a regular basis.
    “They have a curriculum,” Flint said. “It’s not a daycare; we were adamant about calling it the Valley Early Childhood School because we didn’t want to be called a center or a daycare because it’s not. They’re learning.”
    Addison’s pre-K program has shown to be helpful in a child’s transition to kindergarten and grade school, according to DioGuardi and Flint. The program not only prepares children academically, but also socially.
    “It’s a stronger start and it’s a better start,” DioGuardi said. “The whole idea is to get them ready before they start (kindergarten).”
    Neither DioGuardi nor Flint are hopeful the universal pre-K mandate will aid their program.
    “We’re looking to get some extra funding, of course, because our district and our board of education has chosen to take this on,” Flint said. “We’re hoping they look at us and say, ‘Hey, you guys have taken the lead in this.’”
    Even if the district doesn’t receive funding from the state, the program will continue with funding from the district’s regular budget.
    “If we do get some funding, we may be able to offset some of the costs,” DioGuardi said. “But if nothing changes, we have the program and it’s part of our regular operating budget.”

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