A King’s Kids Christian Pre-School representative told the Board of Education she was surprised and saddened at the Rome school district’s upcoming elimination of the facility as a community provider for the district’s pre-K program.
Cheryl Salce, co-director at the 7985 Turin Road site, spoke to the board Wednesday night about her facility’s work with the district over the past 11 years.
The district announced two weeks ago that its pre-K classrooms for the 2019-20 school year will be at either the district’s 409 Bell Road location or at Rome Catholic School’s (RCS) 800 Cypress St. site, and would no longer be at some other community facilities.
King’s Kids contracted with the school district this year to serve 26 students in the pre-K program for 3-year-olds and 29 students in the pre-K program for 4-year-olds, Salce said.
Noting that King’s Kids began in September 2007 as a private Christian pre-school, Salce said the school district’s early childhood program in September 2008 asked if the site could help fill some open pre-K spots to help maintaining full funding of a grant; the district’s pre-K programs are state grant-funded and free to participants.
The facility has “worked diligently and collaboratively over the past 11 years to continue to take on and fill spots,” she said, adding that it undertook an addition to the building to accommodate a need for more space.
King’s Kids “has been a reliable partner” to the school district, “consistently providing high-quality preschool to Rome students,” said Salce, citing consistent district teacher feedback that students from the site are well prepared for kindergarten.
The site believes in “partnering with the parents to develop the whole child: spirit, soul and body in a safe, nurturing, play-filled learning environment,” she commented.
“That’s why I was surprised and saddened” when the district administration “decided to eliminate (King’s Kids) as a community provider,” Salce added.
She also referred to “implications of the changes that were necessary to achieve a balanced budget,” adding “by combining the half-day spots into full-day, the number of children who will be receiving free pre-K will be just under half the current number” based on a state formula for the conversion.
All of the district’s pre-K slots in 2019-20 will have full-day programming.
King’s Kids will continue to provide nursery school for 3-year-olds and pre-K for 4-year-olds for the community, Salce said.
After the board meeting, school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake said he was glad that Salce “came to advocate” for King’s Kids, noting its “great service.”
He said the district’s decision to no longer use the facility was not budgetary, but would not elaborate.
The district’s announcement two weeks ago said the change to having its pre-K classrooms only at 409 Bell Road and at RCS would be “in an effort to maximize the grants’ funding, district oversight, and quality requirements.”
RCS, which will move back to 800 Cypress St. after being at a smaller site the past three years, will have more than double its current pre-K classrooms, Blake has said.
Salce said today the school district had indicated there were “some issues with contractual compliance that I would not be able to maintain” at King’s Kids.
She said a teacher at the school has certification but not with New York State, but she also cited a “five-year window” for resolving it and “we thought we had worked it out.”
Salce referred to district financial considerations and said there would be “half a pie left” in 2019-20 regarding the district’s pre-K program.
When more opportunities become available in the future, she said, “I want to be able to entertain conversations with the district” to again be involved in its program.
She also said she understood the district’s position, and “we need to just appreciate what each other” is doing.
Salce added she anticipates a similar number of pre-K children at King’s Kids in 2019-20, but the program will not be free.
The Rome district currently has about 680 students in its pre-K program for 4-year-olds, all in half-day sessions, plus about 380 students in pre-K for 3-year-olds with some in full-day and others in half-day sessions, Blake has said.