By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Tupelo Public School District will expand its public pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds.
It will add one classroom of 20 students to its Early Childhood Education Center, Federal Programs Director Dale Warriner announced during Tuesday’s school board meeting. The new classroom is expected to start on Dec. 1 and will give the school 13 classes and 260 students.
“It is fabulous we can serve more and more 4-year-old children and better prepare them for when they go to kindergarten,” Warriner said.
The program not only teaches students language and thinking skills, Warriner said, but also responsibility and respect for themselves and others.
The expansion was made possible when the district learned it would receive about $200,000 more from a federal funding source than it expected.
Surveys conducted by the district have shown a high interest from parents and community members for it to expand its pre-K program, Warriner said.
Superintendent Gearl Loden said the decision on how to spend the extra Title 1 money was an easy one.
“Mississippi is the only state in the Southeast that does not provide money to pre-K,” Loden said. “Europe and Asia have also long been providing funding for pre-K. In order to compete with other states and other nations, we need to take the lead and can’t wait for our state to fund pre-K.”
The district will hire a licensed teacher and an assistant teacher for the new class.
It also will use some of the funding to add a Parents As Teachers educator and to expand the materials available at the ECEC’s parents resource center.
The Parents As Teachers educator would be trained in that program and would then be paired with 20 families of children under age 5 to help them boost their children’s development.
The ECEC also enrolls 32 3- and 4-year-olds in a special education program, bringing the building’s total enrollment to 292 students, just less than half of the size of a kindergarten class.
This year, the district has 612 students in kindergarten.
Anyone interested in enrolling in the program should go to the school to register and be placed on the waiting list.