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State funding could mean new pre-K programs for local districts

Shinichi Sugiyama
New pre-K programs could be coming to central New York

New full day pre-Kindergarten programs could be coming to some Central New York schools, thanks to earmarked funds in the recently passed New York state budget. 

The $105 million plan would pay for a certain number of full day pre-K spots in 210 districts across the state. 

Eleven Onondaga County school districts have been targeted to receive the funding, including Baldwinsville, Fabius-Pompey, Fayetteville-Manlius, Jamesville-DeWitt, Liverpool, Marcellus, North Syracuse, Skaneateles, Tully, West Genesee, and Westhill. 

However, for many districts, the transition could be complicated. 

Liverpool Central School District Superintendent Mark Potter said his district currently partners with community based organizations, or CBOs, to provide half day pre-K programs, and now the district will do some research. 

“If we can’t find a CBO that can cover the full day, then we’ve got some conversations that we either have to pull out of the CBOs and do it within the district, or we’ve got to reject the money,” Potter said.

The North Syracuse Central School District works with two providers for its current pre-K program. 

“We’re still learning about how we can use the aid, when the aid becomes available, and it’s our intention to work with our providers to provide a full day UPK program for our 4-year-olds here in North Syracuse, and we’re really excited about that,” said Don Keegan, Associate Superintendent for Business Services at the district.

Keegan said it would be great if the district could provide a full day pre-K program to children who are ready.

“This full day UPK will ensure that more kids are coming to North Syracuse to our kindergarten ready to learn and properly prepared," Keegan said.

Mary Bloss, a teacher and local mother of four, said she likes the idea of pre-K expanding in Central New York. Two of her children went to pre-K, and she looks forward to her other two having the same positive experience.

“I think pre-K’s important,” Bloss said. “They need those skills. They need to just prepare themselves before they head into kindergarten.”

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.