New Grant Expands Alexander Local Schools’ Preschool Program

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With support from a new state grant, officials at Alexander Local Schools will welcome an additional 20 students into the preschool program, possibly as soon as mid November.

The grant of $40,000 was officially awarded to the Athens-Meigs Educational Service Center, which is based in Chauncey. The center oversees several early childhood education and preschool programs in Athens, Meigs and Perry Counties. In Athens County, the center runs programs in four school districts.

Alexander’s program was the only one with a waiting list, explained Becky Stone, the ESC’s early childhood education coordinator. As early as Friday, families of those 24 children on the waiting list were being contacted to see if they were still interested in being enrolled.

Stone isn’t concerned with the students starting in November.

“Some preschool is better than no preschool,” Stone said. “Those seven months will help acclimate the student to the school, the building, the transition and the social skills they need. We’re excited.”

Through the grant, children in families up to 100 percent of the poverty level will be enrolled for free, Stone said. Families between 101 to 200 percent will be charged on a sliding scale, which starts at about $25 per month. Full tuition for the full-time program is $300.

Statewide, 2,450 children will benefit from the Early Childhood Education Expansion Grants, according to the Ohio Department of Education. The additional $10 million statewide invested in early childhood education services was included in the state budget.

The grants targeted preschool programs that are already high quality and are located in high-needs areas of the state.

“We know in Ohio that if children are behind when they start school, it’s more likely they they will struggle academically in later grades,” said State Supt. Richard Ross, in a news release. “It’s critical that we prepare every young child for success in school.”

Alexander Elementary School Principal Nedra Zirkle couldn’t agree more.

“We’re excited to have those kids,” Zirkle said. “Kindergarten is easier if you have some preschool experience. The expectations for all children is very high today. This gives the kids a leg up. We will do what we need to do to make it work.”

The $40,000 will only partially support the expanded preschool program, explained Stone. When considering salaries of a full-time teacher, an educational aide, benefits packages and supplies, the costs go beyond that amount, Stone added. The school has committed to providing the space, supplies and additional monetary support. Zirkle said the district is still working with the ESC to work out those details.

Parents who would like to learn more and live in the district are asked to call the Athens-Meigs Educational Service Center at 797-0064 for additional information.

In addition to the funding for Athens County, the ESC won a $56,000 grant for an expanded preschool program for Southern Local School District in Perry County.