May 20, 2013. The pre-kindergarten program of the Watauga County Schools will serve four classes with a total of 72 children in the 2013-14 school year, down from five classrooms with 90 spaces available at the start of the current school year.
The four pre-kindergarten classes that will be open next year are at Cove Creek, Green Valley, Hardin Park, and Parkway. Each class will serve 18 children.
“Reducing the size of the pre-kindergarten program was a very difficult decision, but the cost of the current program is far greater than the available funding and we are just not able to keep it at the same level next year,” said Tamara Stamey, director of elementary education for WCS. “We know how valuable these services are and we would love to be expanding them instead of reducing them, but that is not an option with the available resources.”
Most of the cost of the WCS pre-kindergarten program is paid by the state through NC Pre-K funds, with some additional funding provided by the Children’s Council of Watauga County and the regional Head Start office. Assistant Superintendent Dr. David Fonseca said it was important to emphasize that the Watauga County Board of Commissioners is not responsible for the reduced size of the pre-kindergarten program for the 2013-14 school year. “The Watauga County Schools and our county commissioners are united in our strong commitment to public education,” noted Fonseca. “The commissioners have historically been generous supporters of our school system and they are continuing that tradition in their budget for the next school year.”
Children from any school attendance area in Watauga County are still potentially eligible to attend pre-kindergarten because priority for enrollment will be based on the child’s risk factors for academic success and not on where they live. However, school bus transportation will be available only for children attending the school in their attendance area, and children who attend pre-kindergarten outside their school attendance area will still need to enroll at the school in their attendance area when they go to kindergarten the following year.
Prior to 2012-13, local school systems could serve both at-risk and not at-risk children in pre-kindergarten classes but the General Assembly removed that flexibility last year. The General Assembly is considering further tightening eligibility standards for the program in 2014-15, including lowering the maximum income to 130% of the poverty level.
Parents who have applied for a space in the WCS pre-kindergarten program will be notified in writing by mid-June of whether or not their child can be enrolled. All parents of children who attended the pre-kindergarten screenings this spring will receive the screening results for their child by mail, regardless of whether or not their child can enroll in the WCS pre-kindergarten program.