2017-12-27 / Front Page / JT Beacon

RSU 21 approves Pre-K for Fall 2018

Executive Editor

KENNEBUNK — Over the past decade, Pre-K has emerged as an important strategy to promote school readiness and close achievement gaps for children in elementary school and beyond.

To address that issue locally, RSU 21 school district serving Kennebunk, Arundel and Kennebunkport, will offer a no-cost Pre-Kindergarten program for children who are turning 4 by Oct. 15, 2018, but have not turned 5 before that same date.

RSU 21's Board of Director approved the initiative at its Dec. 18 meeting and the program will start at Kennebunk Elementary School this fall.

Parents interested in enrolling their child in the program are asked to complete a registration form on the school district's website by Feb. 1 at http://www.rsu21.net/.

District officials say an early accurate participant count is essential so the school can purchase furniture and materials and hire high-quality teachers for the program.

The new Pre-K initiative will serve students from all three of our towns, but be will housed at Kennebunk Elementary School during the coming school year.  It will follow the RSU 21 school calendar and mirror the hours of the elementary school day, which currently is 8:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

In addition, the Kennebunk Recreation Department will offer parents before- and after-care at Kennebunk Elementary School for Pre-K students.

Pre-K transportation will be provided on RSU 21 school buses and meals can be purchased through the school's cafeteria.

The aim of the new program is to offer a developmentally appropriate early childhood experience that will provide children with a solid foundation prior to entering kindergarten, district officials say.

According to a 2014 study by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, public investment in high-quality pre-kindergarten instruction provides a wide array of significant benefits to children, families, and society as a whole.

"Empirical research shows children who participate in high-quality prekindergarten programs score higher on tests when they enter kindergarten than do children who have not attended a high-quality prekindergarten, regardless of whether they are from poor, middle-income, or upper-income families," the study revealed. "Children from low- to moderate-income families who attend high-quality pre-kindergarten require less special education and are less likely to repeat a grade or be victims of child abuse and neglect, thereby reducing the need for child welfare services."

Study statistics show when these children become juveniles and adults, they are less likely to engage in criminal activity, reducing criminality overall. They graduate from high school and attend college at higher rates. Once these children enter the labor force, their incomes are higher, and so are the taxes they will pay back to society. As adults, they are likely to be in better health, with lower incidences of depression and reduced consumption of tobacco.

The study's research also shows that higher-quality prekindergarten programs provide greater benefits than lower-quality programs.

High-quality pre-kindergarten also benefits state educational budgets by saving government spending on kindergarten through 12th-grade education, child welfare, the criminal justice system, and public health care.

The study concludes that high-quality pre-kindergarten has significant implications for future government budgets, both at the national and the state and local levels, for the economy as a whole, for education, for crime, and for health.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at editor@journaltribune.com 


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