December 4, 2019

PPS Seeks State Aid To Expand Preschool For 15 More Students

By Donald Gilpin

An application to expand preschool, with the addition of a general education class of 15 3- and 4-year-old children, was prominent on the agenda at last night’s Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE) meeting.

At the special Board meeting, which was to take place after press time Tuesday night, PPS Superintendent Steve Cochrane was scheduled to recommend that the BOE submit a one-year preschool plan for 2020-2021 to the Early Childhood Division of the New Jersey Department of Education. The district’s plan is a targeted preschool program for “at risk” children.

“”High quality preschool is one of the most powerful, research-based ways of closing the achievement gap,” Cochrane wrote in an email, noting that his slide presentation for the BOE would indicate some of the positive effects. “We are tremendously excited to be expanding this opportunity to advance the learning for the youngest members of our community.”

If the expansion is approved by the state, the new class would be held at the YWCA. The district is also considering moving the preschool class that is currently at Community Park to the YWCA, which would make a total of three preschool classes at the YWCA and two in district.

The district currently educates 60 preschool students in the general education classes. If the state approves the application that number would jump to 75 general education students in 2020-21, with $1M in state aid. PPS received $770,000 in state aid for this year’s preschool program.

The preschool is free to families, and students are selected through a lottery. Currently more than half of the students in PPS preschool qualify for free or reduced lunch, and next year, Cochrane stated, “we are hopeful that percentage will be closer to 80 percent.” The recent allocation of state aid for preschool, Cochrane added, applies only to the general education classes, not to the district’s three classes for students receiving special education services.

In a presentation planned for the BOE meeting, Cochrane wrote that “high quality preschool advances equity and combats poverty, producing students who score higher on standardized tests, graduate on time at higher rates, are held back an average 40 percent less often, are classified for special education services at half the rate, and will earn expected incomes that average $150,000 more over their lifetimes.”

Cochrane also intended to cite various studies, including the Head Start Impact Study, which showed that preschool children had significantly more success in school and in life than those children that did not attend preschool.

Dual Language Immersion

In other PPS news, the Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program will hold a community information session on Tuesday, December 10 at 7 p.m. in the Community Park School cafeteria for parents who would like to enroll their children in DLI as kindergarteners or first graders.There will be additional information sessions in January, allowing parents to consider all the options before kindergarten enrollment begins in February. The English/Spanish DLI program accepts children from all the elementary schools, with transportation provided.

DLI, which began in PPS in 2015, is now kindergarten through fifth grade, and cites benefits from enhanced cognitive skills, improved academic performance, reduction in the opportunity gap, high second language proficiency, and enhanced global citizenship.