School district looks at preschool partnership
Fairfield elementary school principal Jeff Eeling told the school board Monday he is talking with Community Child Care Center about a partnership for preschool.
Eeling is in his second year as principal at Libertyville and Washington elementary schools. Fairfield school district has a preschool for 3– and 4-year-old children at Washington.
“When Art [Sathoff, superintendent] hired me, I was given the directive to grow the preschool program and secure funding,” said Eeling. “The program went from serving 52 children to 70.”
Federal funding is provided for all 4-year old children attending preschool in the public school district. Preschool students not 4 years old, but with an Individualized Education Plan, also are funded by the government.
Fairfield school district charges $50 per month per 3 and 5 year olds without an IEP attending preschool at Washington.
“Community Child Care contacted me about how it lost some business because of us,” said Eeling. “The staff there wanted to know how children could attend free at Washington, and it has to charge fees.”
Parents having the choice of paying for preschool or sending them to Washington, mostly chose the tuition-free option. The school district also provides door-to-door transportation for preschool students, though it is not a requirement.
Eeling said the school district lost $42,000 in preschool funding when Great Prairie Area Education Agency noted the preschool was not providing 20 hours of preschool per week for students weighted at levels two and three for special education.
The district would like to be able to accommodate the students and hours, but is restricted to 20 students per teacher and a highly qualified teacher associate.
If the school district and Community Child Care Center formed a partnership for preschool, more children could be accommodated, and more federal funding could be used.
“Community Child Care has 31 preschool children and 15 of those would qualify for federal funding,” said Eeling. “I already have 35 spots taken [with current 3-year olds moving up] out of 40 spots available for next year. Special education children automatically get priority.”
Eeling said a partnership with Community Child Care Center could allow more spots to open up for preschool children.
“The Community teacher understands she would need to get more certification as would an associate, to become highly qualified, “ he said.
Sathoff said the two preschools would split the federal funding evenly based on the number of students qualifying for federal funds at each school.
“I think it would benefit children in the community,” said board member Phil Miller.
Eeling said he wanted to hear the school board’s thoughts before pursuing a partnership. Board members agreed a partnership was worth exploring, but a few members thought it best to not make Community Child Care Center employees of the school district.
Eeling said he would attend a Community Child Care board meeting in late February to talk with that board and report back to the district.