A state grant may allow the Brick school district to provide free, full-day preschool to general education students, the district’s superintendent said Thursday night.
Brick was one of a few districts statewide selected to participate in the new grant program, pending acceptance of the district’s implementation plan. The program would gradually increase the number of preschool classes over the course of a few years and allow general education students to participate in the program. The state grant would provide the funding for about 16 classes. Currently, the district, by law, provides preschool for special education students and there is an option for families to pay $200 per month for a separate half-day program. The new program would be inclusive of both special and general education students and would last a full day.
“We really feel that, for our community, having up to 16 classes and being able to offer preschool for that many children is a powerful thing,” said Superintendent Gerard Dalton. “We felt that we had to pursue this opportunity, and we would not have been able to do this without this funding source.”
The program could end up improving the lives of students and even saving the district money in the long run.
“The research is clear that if we intervene early, we may not have to classify as many students” for special education, Dalton said.
The district’s plan calls for the first classes to be located at Warren H. Wolf Elementary School. The ratio of general education to special education students would be 10-to-5.
“The opportunity that we have here is that they would fund general education students to go into an inclusive setting,” said Dalton, adding the state would pay about $12,000 for each student. The aid package would be recurring each year, and the district could grow the program over time.
“We have talked to other districts that have done it, and we know we don’t have to implement the entire program in one year,” said Dalton.
If the grant funding is approved, the first classes could begin as soon as January, the superintendent said.
The details on the method by which children would be selected and eligible for the program have not yet been announced by the district.