District to expand Pre-K with grant

The Watervliet City School District will begin offering pre-kindergarten for three-year-old children thanks to a New York State Education Department (NYSED) grant.

Watervliet is among the 32 high-need school districts from across the state to receive grant funding to expand its prekindergarten program, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office announced on Dec. 5.

The district will receive $130,919 in funding that will allow it to offer a high-quality pre-K for 14 three-year-olds, in cooperation with Achievements, a community-based organization that runs a UPK program for four-year-olds at the former Maplewood Elementary School in Watervliet.

District leaders decided to seek funding to expand the prekindergarten program after considering a number of factors, including a lack of available programs for three-year-olds in the community, parental work schedules and socioeconomic status.

“We are looking to fill a void for families with young children in the community,” said Dr. Lori Caplan, Superintendent of Schools. “As with our 4-year old prekindergarten, our goal is to provide access to quality early childhood education in a supportive, school-based setting that will prepare children for kindergarten and give them a foundation for learning that will help them succeed throughout their school years.”

The district currently offers a full-day prekindergarten program for 71 four-year-old students with community partner Albany Community Action Plan (ACAP). A lack of adequate classroom space at Watervliet Elementary School, however, had been a barrier to further expanding prekindergarten . After considering resources and potential partners, the district approached Achievements, which operates preschool programs in the Maplewood building and also provides special education services to young learners who need it.

District officials anticipate the new program will begin in late January, and will run from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. If more than 14 applications are received, the district will hold a lottery to fill the spots.