Sussex-Wantage vies for pre-k funding

WANTAGE. A grant would be needed to bring such a program to the school district.

| 02 Sep 2022 | 02:01

The Sussex-Wantage Board of Education is considering creating a committee that will explore applying for a grant that could allow the district to offer pre-kindergarten.

“I would love to provide full-day, free pre-k to the community,” Superintendent Michael Gall said. “I just wanted to get the board’s take on that. You probably hear about other districts winning grants that are awarded to them and being able to offer that. Grants are contingent upon a lot of things, but I just want you to know that we’ve been exploring different angles over a couple of years to do something like that, contingent upon the grant.”

Gall said it was recently discussed in the Curriculum Committee. The district had applied for the grant previously but did not win.

“Our understanding was the pitch we were making was trying to start small, and the state was more along the lines of, ‘You need to provide it for everybody in the community,’ which at that time was probably 180 to 200 kids,” Gall said.

Some of the districts that have received the grant have about 350 to 400 students.

The district would also need facility space that meets the grant’s requirements. Gall said the grant proposal requires the district to illustrate where it would have space to accommodate the program. It could involve shuffling what grades are in which school, but nothing specific has been discussed.

Gall said other hurdles could include transportation requirements. It was required several years ago the last time Gall worked toward the grant.

“We have a hard time getting bus routes now,” Gall said. “I can’t imagine [adding], but if that’s something we want to work toward, then we have to start brainstorming.”

The Vernon Township School hosts a half-day tuition-based preschool program at the Walnut Ridge School. The morning session starts at 9:35 a.m. and ends at 12:05 p.m. The afternoon session runs from 1:50 to 3:20 p.m.

Board of Education member Allison Cecchini wondered if that was a possibility.

“I don’t know how many parents would do that,” she said. “But a lot of parents are already paying for day care, so I feel like they’d rather start with the district earlier.”