WHITEFIELD — The White Mountains Regional School District board has agreed to expand preschool programming to better prepare young children for kindergarten and beyond.
SAU 36 Superintendent Harry Fensom said Wednesday that the board approved expanding the district’s preschool programs for 4-year-olds from two half-days a week to four half-days, and to waive the fees for those children who are enrolled as non-special education students.
The school district already provides the preschool sessions for no charge to children ages 3 and 4 who are coded as possibly having a learning disability. Between them, the Lancaster Elementary and Whitefield Elementary schools’ young child programs have about 70 students. To accommodate the increase in the time, the program for 3-year-olds will be open only to students “coded” — identified as having a learning disability.
Fensom said the fees charged represented a “nominal contribution,” and were based on the same sliding-fee scale as the federal free and reduced lunch program. “It wasn’t much at all,” he said.
Special Education Director Marie Fay said that if there is not enough space for all the children who are not coded but who wish to enroll, the district will fill the spots based on which children could benefit most from the early schooling.
Fay said the change enables teachers to use the Tools of the Mind curriculum to its full potential. She said the preschool staff was getting frustrated, trying to do the program in half the time for which it’s designed.
Fay said the district’s kindergarten teachers could tell which children had gone to the preschool. “It was just so noticeable,” she said. “This way we’re hoping to have a better base for kindergarten,” she continued, saying that children at risk of needing special services will get priority enrollment. “That’s what our program is built for, to be preventive.”
The program sessions run from 8:30 to 11and from noon to 2:30 p.m.