The announcement of a third First Class: Alabama’s Voluntary Pre-K classroom in Athens came last week. Students who were left on a waiting list will be the first to be contacted to attend, an official said.
“We applied (for the state grant) late,” said Beth Patton, an assistant superintendent for Athens City Schools. “We have two others (First Class Pre-K classrooms) at Athens Elementary School, but we are going through tear down and relocation, so we tried to apply (to put one at HEART Academy).”
School officials were hopeful but not confident the state would approve a grant for the third location.
“We were so excited last week when we got notification that we got the grant, because we had so many kids on the waiting list and it is such a need in our community,” Patton said.
Students do not have to live within the HEART Academy district to attend the preschool. As long as they live within the city school district, they can apply, Patton said.
Because the school system applied late and school was about to start, the state said the school system could use its existing waiting list to try to fill the pre-K coming to HEART Academy, Patton said. Because there may be additional slots to fill, Patton said parents and guardians can still apply and be put on the waiting list.
The application can be found at https://bit.ly/AthensPreK.
Schools have been sending emails to parents already on the waiting list and were following up with telephone calls Monday in case parents missed the emails. Parents with children are on the waiting list who have not yet been contacted by email or phone can call Patton at 256-771-7140.
Gov. Kay Ivey announced earlier this year 164 additional First Class Pre-K classrooms would be coming to 38 counties at the start of the 2019–2020 school year.
The classrooms will expand access to the state-funded, voluntary pre-K program to 21,636 children, with more than 1,202 classrooms statewide, moving closer to Alabama’s goal of serving up to 70% of eligible 4-year-olds, according to the governor’s press release.
Creekside Primary School and Sugar Creek Elementary School in Limestone County were also among the recipients of state funding for a pre-K program.
A new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama on behalf of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education found students who participate in First Class Pre-K are more likely to be proficient in math and reading.
Furthermore, the study found no evidence of the benefits of high quality pre-k fading out over time. These long-term results hold true even after the study controlled for student demographics and other variables, such as poverty.