A new preschool will start operation this fall at a local elementary school.
In an effort to ensure that students are prepared for kindergarten, the Lawrence school district will open a preschool this fall at East Heights School.
The school, which will have capacity for 20 students, initially would target children who are 4 years old and in the East Heights attendance area. If space is available, the program would open up to children who will be 3 years old by Dec. 31.
At least the first year of operation would be financed through private fund raising through the local business-education partnership board and the Lawrence Schools Foundation. The preschool, which will serve children who are at risk of having difficulty once they start public school, will require about $45,000 for its first year. The school district would provide space, as well as equipment.
Cris Anderson, the district's Even Start coordinator, said the district wants to serve children who are not already involved in a preschool program. And the school would concentrate on children who are from single-parent households, from families that would qualify for free or reduced-price lunches and whose mother or father has a low level of education.
The preschool program also would zero in on the children's parents and provide parent education and support.
"I really think that this is the only way we can change this division of rich and poor and have and have-nots and the basic inequities of how you're born," said John Tacha, school board president.
Tacha, who also is a member of the business-education partnership board, is optimistic about fund raising.
"I think we'll be surprised how many avenues there are in that," he said.
The school will operate all day, five days a week. It will be licensed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for child care, and the district will develop the curriculum.
Randy Weseman, assistant superintendent, is an ardent supporter of the preschool plan.
"I have never been more passionate about a plan or an idea," Weseman said.
Supt. Al Azinger said plenty of Lawrence youngsters aren't attending preschool, but really should be.
"And that becomes evident when they come to school," he said. "Unfortunately, if we don't do some support early on, there are way too many of those kids who don't catch up."