Calcasieu to move to free universal Pre-K setup, waiting list dissolves

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

Calcasieu Parish schools will move to an universal prekindergarten setup that will include every applicant on the current waiting list.

“Financially, we aren’t having to change much,” Kirby Smith, school system public information officer, told the American Press on Thursday. “We’re expanding our enrollment.”

The program will begin Tuesday, Aug. 20, and will be tuition-free. The $75-per-week fee will be eliminated, and there will

no longer be a distinction between free and reduced-price lunch.

“The possibility does exist that we may turn to outside sources for supplemental Pre-K services only in special situations

now that all children are being served,” said Superintendent Wayne Savoy.

The American Press reported on Wednesday that 394 children in Calcasieu Parish were on a waiting list — a major increase from previous years.

“I meant what I said when I was quoted

early this week that one kid not in school is too many,” Savoy said in a

prepared statement.

“I was convinced prior to making that statement that a way needed

to be found, using a new approach to the curriculum, to

educate all children in need.”

The elementary department’s administrative directors and members from the early childhood education and special education

departments met twice this week to rectify concerns with the long waiting list. Universal Pre-K quickly became the leading

option because it allows for a more collaborative approach to curriculum, Smith said in a news release.

The program will take on a districtwide curriculum in all Pre-K classrooms. Creative Curriculum, which is already in use in

the school system’s Head Start programs, will correlate with the new Louisiana Birth-5 Standards.

“When Mr. Savoy informed me this morning that the universal Pre-K program would be adopted by our schools this year, I was

overcome with emotion, as were many of my colleagues,” Sheryl Piper, director of early childhood education, said in a news

release.

“Since I was assigned to the job as

district coordinator of preschools in 1998, I have always been very

passionate about my

vision to see all children, regardless of income status, receive a

quality education that will prepare them for kindergarten.

Today, that vision has become a reality.”

Parents with students on the current waiting list will get more information in the coming days, Smith said.

She also said that plans are in the works to enroll interested individuals who are not now on the waiting list.

Partnering with area industry to help fund additional classrooms may be an option, Savoy said at Tuesday’s School Board meeting.

The board staff has been in talks with Sasol, but nothing has been decided, Savoy added.

For more information, contact Piper at sheryl.piper@cpsb.org.

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