Findlay City Schools will be the recipient of a grant from United Way of Hancock County for a pilot preschool program at Washington preschool to begin in January of 2015. The board approved the grant at its monthly meeting on Thursday, November 20. The board approved a grant of up to $75,000 to serve children from low-income families. The grant will cover all costs associated with two additional sessions of pre-kindergarten classes of 16 children each. Costs include tuition, transportation, lunch and staff. The recommendation came to the board from the United Way’s strategic planning committee and the administrative advisory committee.
“We have been researching the best way to spend the funds we placed in reserves to address emerging needs in the community,” said John Urbanski, president & chief executive officer of United Way. “It became clear that there are a number of children who need access to pre-kindergarten schooling in order to be ready to learn. This pilot program will not only address the children’s needs, but will also allow us to gather evidence to support early learning as a way to address our community’s workforce issues of the future.”
“The number one challenge for our employers today is attracting and retaining a qualified workforce. This investment in children’s education will result in a stronger community and workforce. Our workforce coalition has identified early childhood education as an opportunity to expand the workforce for now and into the future to fulfill our economic potential,” noted board member Tim Mayle, assistant economic director of the Findlay Hancock County Alliance.
According to Findlay City Schools, there are currently 147 children attending school-based pre-kindergarten, none of whom come from low-income or underserved families due to the tuition. The program’s tuition is $70 or $90 per month, depending on the program, with no transportation and no meals provided. This pilot program will be provided at no cost to qualifying families.
The preschool pilot project was developed by a collaborative group that included representatives from Findlay City Schools, the workforce coalition and United Way. Discussions began two months ago after United Way received results from the community assessment and community conversations that have been taking place throughout the year. The program also matches well with United Way’s recently established strategic plan.
“This pilot project certainly fits within our strategic position to drive sustainable change in Hancock County. So much of our school resources are spent helping kindergarteners and first and second graders get caught up. This is a way to ensure that these students get a chance to get caught up with their peers before they fall behind in school,” said Urbanski.
The project also aligns with the United Way’s 10 year vision that every child in Hancock County meets kindergarten requirements and is ready to learn. The future of the program could include expanded pre-school programming in other schools in Hancock County and consistent curriculum in private, all-day child-care settings.
The pilot program will begin in January of 2015 with Findlay City Schools identifying children who qualify.