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Cascade's Pre-K in question

June 19, 2000|By TARA REILLY

With the status of which schools will provide pre-kindergarten service next school year in limbo, Cascade Elementary School parents met with Washington County Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Monday afternoon looking for answers.

About 10 members of the Cascade Elementary Parents Teachers Association questioned Bartlett about where qualified Cascade children will enroll in the Extended Elementary Educational Program, known as Triple E P, if the program is taken out of Cascade Elementary next year. To qualify for the program, children must be four years old.

Bartlett said the School Board is in the process of restructuring which elementary schools will offer Triple E P as a result of the Board's loss of the Head Start program.

Triple E P teachers, who also taught the Head Start program, are employed full time and under contract with the School Board. In the past, Triple E P teachers instructed pre-kindergarten in the morning and Head Start in the afternoon.

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About 340 children were enrolled in Triple E P last year, in addition to the 210 enrolled in the Head Start program provided by the School Board. With many of those 210 children gone next year, the board must condense the extra space by cutting the number of schools that provide Triple E P, Bartlett said.

Those teachers will not lose their jobs and will be placed in positions as they become available. The Board has not yet decided which or how many of the 10 elementary schools that provided Triple E P will keep the program. Some of the approximately 25 instructional assistants could lose their jobs.

Under state law, no more than 20 students per class can be enrolled in Triple E P. As of now, Cascade has about 14 enrolled for next year, John Festerman, director of elementary education, said.

"There's going to be more than one school affected," Festerman said.

"We're looking at where we can save the most students," Bartlett said. "Had I had a wish, I would wish for this not to happen."

Parents raised concerns about how children would be transported to other schools if they must enroll in the program elsewhere.

"Would the children be bused or do we have to take them?" parent Laurie Shifler asked. "Either way it's not convenient."

Parents said they could not turn to private pre-kindergarten institutions because of long waiting lists.

Bartlett and Festerman said they had no answers yet but would work quickly to let parents know which schools will provide the program.

"We do not know any more than you do," Bartlett said. "We're working on it and will get an answer to you as soon as possible."

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