Pre-kindergarten program to expand to three Mt. Blue schools this fall

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FARMINGTON — A pre-kindergarten program launched this year at the Mallett School in Farmington has been so successful it is being expanded — without cost to the Mt. Blue Regional School District — to two other elementary schools next fall.

Application forms for the program at Mallett as well as the new ones at Cape Cod Hill School in New Sharon and Cushing School in Wilton will be available at those schools starting Monday.

It is expected there will be enough slots to accommodate all children who sign up but a lottery system will be used in Farmington, Assistant Superintendent Susan Pratt told the school board Tuesday.

The board voted to expand the pre-school program with directors Scott Webber of New Vineyard and William Reid of New Sharon opposed.

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The program will be funded through grants and federal programs that include Title1, which provides assistance to schools with a high number of low-income families; Child Development Services, which is administered through the Maine Department of Education and directed at children with special needs; and Head Start, a federal program for income-eligible families administered locally by Community Concepts.

The Farmington program has 32 students this year. It is being held on the University of Maine at Farmington’s Early Childhood Center on Maguire Street but will be moved to the new Mallett School building when it is completed next year. Two pre-kindergarten classrooms are included in the design.

The Mallett program has four, half-day sessions with two groups of 16 children. UMF provides the space and the teacher, education majors are there as support staff, and an education technician is funded through Child Development Services, Pratt said.

“The program has been very successful,” Pratt said. “And UMF is very willing to continue collaborating with us on this.”

Pratt said the Farmington program brought in a subsidy of $94,000 in one year. Next year, she anticipates the revenue would be $336,000.

The Cape Cod Hill School program would be run at the school and would be offered three full days a week. It would provide slots for 12 Head Start-eligible students and six community students.

The Cushing School program would be a two-day, full-day program with 32 students divided into two groups.

School Board Director Robert Pullo of Wilton, a UMF professor in special education and rehabilitation services, said the new students and the revenue that the pre-kindergarten program will help counter the district-wide drop in enrollment.

“It makes sense philosophically, pragmatically and particularly, it makes economic sense,” he said.

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