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Williamsburg preschools receive state grant

By ANDREA FURLONG

After three years of unsuccessful application attempts, four Williamsburg preschools have been accepted into the state’s 4-year-old voluntary preschool program.

The Williamsburg School District is one of 150 school districts to join the program this year. The program, established in 2007, provides preschools with state aid toward preschoolers’ tuition.

Little Raiders (the preschool of the Williamsburg School District), Williamsburg Community Preschool, W4C’s and Lutheran Interparish Preschool will receive a total of $98,834 toward their preschool programs this year. Williamsburg Schools Curriculum Director Michael Jepson, who led the grant application process, said due to a tighter budget the state is not fully funding tuition for preschools just entering the program. This year’s funding is anticipated to cover 37 percent of the four preschools’ $320,000 total cost of operations.

The $98,834 in state aid will be distributed to each preschool based on student enrollment. This year, the schools anticipate the funding to be awarded as follows: $46,510 to Williamsburg Community Preschool, $23,255 to LIS Preschool, $15,115 to W4C’s and $13,953 to Little Raiders Preschool. Jepson said it will be up to each preschool how to use the funds toward its program.

He said he is hoping the four preschools will eventually be fully funded, so they can offer free tuition to incoming preschoolers.

“You just hope that the finances every year increase,” he said.

Schools participating in the state’s 4-year-old voluntary preschool program are evaluated based on the Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards (IQPPS). The IQPPS consists of 172 criteria separated into 10 categories: relationships, curriculum, teaching, assessment of child progress, health, teachers, health, family, community, physical environment and leadership and management. Jepson said one of the greatest parts of receiving the grant is knowing that the education at each of the four preschools adheres to the same standards.

“All this is helping our kids in our district get better prepared of kindergarten, no matter what preschool they’re going to,” he said.

Jepson noted that the group of preschools has studied the criteria for the last three years and participated in a mock evaluation on the IQPPS by the Iowa Department of Education earlier this year. The average score on the standards was 95 percent. Little Raiders received a perfect score.

Jepson said he believed the schools were not selected to be in the program earlier because they did not meet two of the main criteria: a large number of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch and a lack of preschool programs in the area.

“We knew it was going to be very difficult at first. We are very fortunate in Williamsburg to have a low percentage of free and reduced. We are again very fortunate in Williamsburg to have four very solid preschool programs. With those being two of the main criteria to get the goal, during the initial couple years we didn’t qualify,” he said.

Other area schools to receive the grant this year include Clear Creek Amana, HLV and Iowa Valley. English Valleys has been in the program since its first year.

UPDATED June 22, 2010 12:16 PM

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