By Denise Dick
Forty-one more city children will be able to attend preschool through an early childhood education expansion grant from the Ohio Department of Education.
The city school district received $164,000 through the program.
Superintendent Connie Hathorn said the grant allows the district to reach more children earlier.
“This gives us the oppor- tunity to catch kids at an early age,” he said. The advantage is for the kids and the families. We have the ability to provide more kids services at an early age, and we’re very thankful to the state for giving us the money to do that.”
An additional 10 and five children in the Campbell and Sebring school districts, respectively, will be able to go to preschool through grants — $40,000 for Campbell and $20,000 for Sebring. Both districts’ preschools are operated by the Mahoning County Educational Service Center.
Liberty got $40,000 through the Trumbull County ESC and in Columbiana County, East Liverpool was awarded $112,000 and three different programs serving children in Southern Local received a total of $128,000.
Richard A. Ross, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a news release, that the program provides funds for 2,450 more children to attend high-quality preschools where they will become well-prepared for kindergarten.
“We know in Ohio that if children are behind when they start school, it’s more likely they will struggle academically in later grades. It’s critical that we prepare every young child for success in school,” he said.
Stephanie Siddens, director of the Office of Early Learning and School Readiness at ODE, said in an email that eligible children for the program are those that are ages three and four whose family income falls below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
“We targeted areas of the state that had children with high needs and awarded programs that are high quality and that could serve high-needs children immediately,” she said. “We know from examining years of data from Ohio’s Kindergarten Readiness Assessment that there is an approximately 25-30 percentage point achievement gap in the entering skills of high-needs children as they enter kindergarten compared to their peers.”
She said research shows that children who participate in quality early learning and development programs demonstrate better language skills and improved reading and math skills through third grade.
“They are also less likely to be retained in the early grades and less likely to be referred for special education services,” Siddens said.
The grants were targeted to areas of the state that didn’t perform well on either the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment Literacy or the third grade reading test of the Ohio Achievement Assessment, she said.
Linda Blama, Youngstown Schools’ preschool program supervisor, said that including the 41 children served through the grant, 291 children are in preschool in the district for half-days and 15 children for full days.
The children in the program for full days are medically fragile or severely autistic.
Preschools operate at William Holmes McGuffey, Martin Luther King, Paul C. Bunn and Harding elementary schools as well as Choffin Career and Technical Center and the McCartney and Renaissance Head Start Learning Centers.
The latter two centers are Mahoning Youngstown Community Action Partnership facilities.
Most enrolled are 3 or 4 years old although a child may be accepted if he or she will turn 3 by Dec. 1.
Without the grant, those 41 children likely would be placed on a waiting list to be enrolled in the program, Blama said.