, 2015

Community effort could
expand school program
for at-risk 3-year-olds

by Audrey Thomasson

KILMARNOCK—Lancaster schools are hoping to swing the door wider on a program for 3-year-olds and accept more at-risk kids into a class that prepares them for success in kindergarten and beyond.

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The Wiley Foundation donated the initial funding for a class of 12 tykes to learn skills to put them on a level field with other children when they enter public school. However, according to the program’s teacher, Cynthia Bishop, each year children are turned away.

“This year I have eight children on the waiting list,” she reported to the school board on Monday. “Parents are calling, but we’ve already chosen the 12.”

Tom Kinney, a retired automotive industry executive and 26-year resident of Lancaster, told the board that over the past six days a group of residents has been raising money from community sources in order to fund a second class of 3-year-olds.

“We are responding to the need of another classroom...so we don’t have any children on the waiting list,” said Kinney.

He asked the board to approve a second class, contingent on his citizen group raising the funds for a teacher, paraprofessional, classroom and materials.

The group must meet a July 1 deadline in order for the primary school to set up a classroom and hire and prepare teachers in order for the program to begin in the 2014-15 school year. “It will be an all-out scramble” to get funding in 16 days, he noted.

Kinney plans to duplicate the Wiley Foundation’s funding program of $225,000 over three years, given in decreasing amounts. In the first year, the foundation fully funded the class at $100,000. The second year, they gave $75,000 and the school budget picked up the remainder. The third year, foundation funding is at $50,000 with the school picking up the second half.

“It would take $100,000 to start up the program...for the coming school year,” said acting superintendent Sandy Spears.

District 3 board member Don McCann made the motion for approval, pending the group’s ability to find funding before the end of the fiscal year on June 30. It passed on a 5-0 vote.

In other business, board members approved the 180-day school calendar year. The first day of school will be September 2 with the final day on June 12, including two weeks for Christmas beginning December 22 and a week for Spring break starting April 6.

Expressing their reluctance, members adopted the state mandated hybrid sick leave policy that puts new employees on a separate sick-leave plan and requires them to pay for the disability plan. “Legacy” employees will continue on the old plan, said McCann.

Spanish teacher Amanda Moss received board approval for making plans and raising funding to take third- and fourth-year Spanish students on a field trip to the Dominican Republic or Nicaragua.

Also, board chairman Dr. Robert Westbrook said he wanted to hold a public work session to create a strategic plan for utilization of school buildings until new schools are required.

“It’s a plan for making the best of what we have...and making a clear path of first, second and third steps...before we have new schools,” he explained.

A workshop was set for 6 p.m. July 7 at 2330 Irvington Road, Weems, the school board office.

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