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School district moves toward universal Pre-K

Published: May. 13, 2022 at 6:39 PM EDT|Updated: May. 13, 2022 at 6:59 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District is working toward the goal of universal Pre-K education with an expansion of their current programs kicking off next school year.

As part of the 2019 Mission Critical initiatives, the district is moving forward with a four-stage plan to increase the number of seats available for education before kindergarten.

In the first stage starting in the 2022-23 school year, schools will have Pre-K options available to all schools that don’t have a waitlist and have the classroom space available.

Those schools include: Charleston Progressive Academy, Jane Edwards, Memminger, Minnie Hughes, Mitchell, Mt. Zion, North Charleston Creative Arts, North Charleston Elementary, Pepperhill, St. James Santee and Dunston

“Stage one are schools where we are ready to say we already have universal Pre-K for those students who live in those attendance zones,” Kimberly Foxworth, executive director of early childhood school readiness programs. “What we need to do is get into those communities and let the families know. In some of these communities, they may not know what we have to offer for 4-year-olds. In these stage one communities, we want to spread the word and let them know what high-quality early childhood program is offered at their schools.”

Wave two will target schools that are set to receive building upgrades in the current Capital Improvement Plan. Those schools have a waiting list of 182 students and will need upwards of 17 new classrooms which could include modular units or early learning centers like the Mary Ford Early Learning Center in North Charleston currently in use. Those schools are Midland Park, Sanders-Clyde (@ Mary Ford), Springfield (@ Drayton Hall), St. Andrews and Stono Park.

“Their kindergarten readiness scores are lower, there’s some academic needs there,” Foxworth said. “Let’s get the kids in those communities next. We want to be creative and flexible with families to add more spaces for 4-year-olds.”

Stages three and four are slated to start at the earliest in 2024 and encompass schools that have high enrollment demand and no building capacity to expand. Stage three would tackle schools with high academic needs, while stage four would handle the rest of the schools. The district estimates there are more than 750 students currently on a waiting list this year for Pre-K programs at schools in these two stages.

The district has allocated $5 million of ESSER III to expand early childhood education. The district expects to pay for some of the building expansions with the capital budget as well.

New and returning students will need to register if interested. More on how to register here: https://www.ccsdschools.com/Page/8221

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