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Pre-kindergarten program in Cascade will be shut down

April 15, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN, Md. - The Washington County Board of Education is shutting down pre-kindergarten classes at Cascade Elementary School next year because of a declining enrollment, but the federally-funded Head Start program may take its place, Principal Tim Abe said.

Abe said the school expects seven students from the Cascade area to be eligible for the county's pre-kindergarten program next year, called the Extended Elementary Education Program (EEEP).

The program is funded through grants by the Maryland State Department of Education, which requires 20 students per class.

"We don't have the numbers to support the program," Abe said.

Without the required number of students at a school, the state Department of Education will no longer pay for the program, forcing school systems to either come up with the money elsewhere or eliminate it.

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School Board President Edward Forrest said he was not aware that Cascade's pre-kindergarten program will not be in place next school year and did not know if any discussions took place among central office administrators about funding the program within the board's budget.

School Board administrators either did not return phone calls or could not be reached for comment.

Cascade's pre-kindergarten program nearly shut down this school year, also because of a lack of students. The school, however, was granted an exception from the state to keep the program running until at least the end of the school year.

Public Information Officer Carol Mowen said the Cascade students who are eligible for pre-kindergarten next year may apply for a spot in the board's pre-kindergarten classes at the Robinwood Early Childhood Center.

To qualify for EEEP, children must be 4 years old as of Dec. 31 and have their own transportation, school officials have said.

Abe said he didn't know what would happen to the school's pre-kindergarten teacher, but that the School Board usually reassigns teachers in similar situations to other positions elsewhere in the county.

Abe said that while the county's program is ending, Head Start of Washington County is in discussions with the school system to start a program at Cascade.

Head Start is a federally funded program that helps low-income 3- and 4-year-olds prepare for kindergarten by stressing social and cognitive development.

Abe said the school would benefit with Head Start because many of the students who qualified for the county's program would also be eligible for Head Start.

"That's what's best for kids," Abe said.

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