WRIGHT TWP. — Unable to secure a state grant, the Crestwood School Board determined it was not feasible for the district to run a Pre-K program during a special meeting Wednesday.
“As it stands, we don’t have a Pre-K program. Therefore, we can’t register any children in the program,” said Crestwood Superintendent Joseph Gorham. “However, we are continuing to explore all avenues.”
The district had been fortunate enough to get state Pre-K Counts money last year, thanks to a lack of students in a program in the Tunkhannock Area School District.
“Depending on the leftover funds from other school districts, we might be able to have a Pre-K program in January,” Gorham added. “But we can’t say for sure at this time.”
Parents of Crestwood children registered for Pre-K scoffed at the board’s decision.
The state awards the annual grants on a competitive basis, giving preference to programs that have existed longer, served more students and otherwise have a track record of success, Luzerne Intermediate Unit executive director Tony Greico explained. The LIU has been getting grants for three years, funneling the money primarily to Hanover Area School District.
Last year, the LIU also got money for two Pre-K Counts classes — designed to help low-income students — in Tunkhannock Area, but the district filled only one of those classes. When Crestwood approached the LIU about a possible Pre-K program, Greico said, the state gave a green-light to the idea of transferring the unused Tunkhannock money to Crestwood.
This year, Crestwood and Tunkhannock opted to apply for grants on their own, Greico said. The LIU also applied and received enough money to help Hanover Area open another Pre-K Counts classroom this fall.
According to the state Department of Education, Tunkhannock won a grant for 2018-19, but Crestwood did not. All told, nine programs won grants in Luzerne County for the upcoming year, including three school districts: Northwest Area, Greater Nanticoke Area and Hazleton Area.
King’s College also won a Pre-K Counts grant. The other local recipients were early childhood centers not directly affiliated with school districts.
Gorham said the district had applied for the grant independently because it would get more money that way, and he had expected to get the grant thanks to already having a Pre-K Counts program running for a year.
“I don’t know how the state can look upon that as a good thing for the school community, to give us something and then take it away,” he said.
The grant paid for furniture, a teacher and an aide, and served 18 students. Board members had to decide if they wanted to pay for a teacher and aide again this year. Money was not budgeted because the district expected to get the grant.
The teacher hired assuming the district would receive the grant will now serve in a different capacity, according to solicitor John Dean.
“The aide will not be hired,” added Dean. “The money to retain the teacher will have to come out of the district’s general fund.”
Meanwhile, there was no decision on a new principal for Rice Elementary School.
A decision is expected to come at a school board meeting next week, according to Superintendent Gorham.
Former principal Joseph Delluso resigned earlier this summer. When the board accepted his resignation in June, Gorham said a search for Delluso’s successor was already underway.
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish
Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes