The state-funded On My Way Pre-K program for children of low-income families will be offered at two additional locations in Jackson County this fall.
Child Care Network is partnering with Jackson County Education Coalition to establish preschool classes at Girls Inc. and Margaret R. Brown Elementary School, both in Seymour.
Officials hope to enroll up to 45 qualifying 4-year-olds between the two locations by August.
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Other approved sites are Head Start and Terri’s Playhouse.
Natasha Langford, project manager for On My Way Pre-K in Jackson County, said the two new sites are vital.
“They provide nearly half of the capacity needed,” she said. “And they are experienced child care and early-education providers with proven programming within the community.”
The education coalition recently received seven mini-grants from the state totaling nearly $39,000. That money is to help increase preschool provider capacity in Jackson County and comes in three tiers, $5,000, $10,000 and $30,000, said Dan Hodge, education coalition director.
“It was based on what the provider needed financially to be able to do this program,” he said.
To participate in On My Way Pre-K, a provider must be rated Level 3 or 4 by the state’s voluntary Paths to QUALITY rating and improvement program through the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration or be accredited by an approved national or regional accrediting body.
A total of $435,000 in provider capacity grants was made available by the state.
Hodge said he was glad to see Jackson County get just as much in funding as some of the larger counties participating in the pilot program, including Lake, Allen and Vanderburgh. Only Marion County received more, he said.
The addition of Girls Inc. and Brown School brings the county closer to its goal of having at least 10 On My Way Pre-K providers by the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.
“We’re definitely on track,” Hodge said.
Other agencies that received funding to expand existing preschool programs are Crothersville Elementary Preschool, Lord’s Lambs Preschool, Medora Elementary School, Noah’s Ark Preschool at First Baptist Church and Zion Lutheran School.
The committee chose Girls Inc. as a new location because the facility is established and attracts many young children daily through its own programming.
The Boys and Girls Club also is being evaluated as a potential On My Way Pre-K site, but there are some logistical issues that need to be worked out first, Hodge said.
Girls Inc. is a smart choice because it allows an existing facility to get more use, he added.
“In a rural county such as us, you have to use what you have,” Hodge said. “All we had to do was find a provider to do it there, and it made sense to work with Child Care Network.”
Janice Read, director of Child Care Network, said that agency has hired a pre-K development manager and will add two certified preschool teachers, classroom assistants and a translator.
“Everything is falling into place,” Read said.
The reason Child Care Network stepped up as a provider is simply to help meet a community need, she added.
“That’s what this agency is all about,” she said. “For 25 years, Child Care Network has been very conscientious about serving Jackson County, and clearly this is a great opportunity.”
Child Care Network has been involved in preschool for 10 years, having operated Family Preschool programs in the past at Brown and Seymour-Jackson Elementary School.
“This is familiar territory for us. It’s logical for us to do this,” she said. “For the first time, there are real options for families to send their children to high-quality preschool programs.”
Child Care Network will conduct a preschool roundup toward the end of summer.
“We have to have the enrollment to make this work, but parents really aren’t thinking about next year yet,” Read said.
The Girls Inc. site also demonstrates a willingness to collaborate between agencies, which is an important factor for the education coalition to reach its intended market.
Having more children at Girls Inc. during the school day also helps promote that agency to future members, Hodge said.
Brown School is another logical choice because it once housed Child Care Network’s Family Preschool.
“Seymour Community Schools is allowing us to have the space, and Brown is a great location,” Hodge said. “With transportation being an issue for some families, Brown provides a location that many of our families can walk to.”
The school corporation also is offering a public preschool for a second year at Seymour-Redding Elementary School site, but that program is not affiliated with On My Way Pre-K.
So far, only 20 families have signed up to receive vouchers through the On My Way Pre-K program to send their children to preschool.
The deadline to apply is April 30.
“It’s still fairly early,” Hodge said. “But it’s really important for us to find these kids because we need to have enough kids to fill these sites.”
He expects to have 100 to 125 students start preschool in the fall using the grant funding. That’s about half of the 255 children the FSSA has designated in Jackson County who are eligible and not currently enrolled in preschool.
Only those families that have an income below 127 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible to participate. That means a family of four cannot have an annual income exceeding $30,080.70 to qualify.
Both the Girls Inc. and Brown School preschool sites will be open to families that do not qualify for On My Way Pre-K vouchers, but those families will have to pay full tuition. Priority will be given to low-income families first, Hodge said.
The coalition is conducting a marketing blitz and recently attended a Mexican consulate mobile visit to Seymour and will have information available at the upcoming Kids Fest.
“We’re really trying to get our message out there, that preschool is important and families should take advantage of this opportunity,” Hodge said.
The capacity grants come from the state Family and Social Services Administration Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning, Early Learning Indiana and United Way of Central Indiana.
Online applications for families interested in On My Way Pre-K for their child are available at prek.carefinderindiana.org/StateLottery.
A printable form also is available at in.gov/fssa/files/Jackson_Co._Lottery_app_8-15.pdf.
For information, visit onmywayprek.org or learningwithicie.com.
Those needing help finding an approved pre-K program may call 1-800-299-1627 for assistance from an early-learning referral specialist.