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DeKalb schools weigh pre-K plan

Board to consider $719K proposal to consolidate early childhood programs at Chesebro

DeKALB – The new members of the DeKalb school board will begin their term discussing the merits of having a permanent early childhood/pre-kindergarten education program.

Vickie Hernan-Faivre, Mary Hess and Victoria Newport, along with the rest of the DeKalb School District 428 board, will weigh in Tuesday on whether to spend $719,000 to consolidate the EC/Pre-K program at Chesebro Elementary School.

Chesebro has not been used for educating students since 2011. The startup cost for the program includes $425,000 in renovations to the building, records show.

Superintendent James Briscoe said there are educational and financial benefits to having a EC/Pre-K program in one location. The district has early childhood programs at Brooks and Tyler elementary schools, and a pre-kindergarten program at Jefferson Elementary.

“It’s just good for kids, good for learning, and a great way to utilize resources more efficiently,” Briscoe said.

Briscoe said the centralization would allow teachers to be more creative in teaching and intervening with potential problem children.

The presentation board members will see cites numerous studies that show the potential for savings. A 2005 study from the National Association for the Education of Young Children states that “for every dollar spent on high-quality early intervening programs, we can save $12 in the future.”

But district officials also state in their documents that there are no immediate cost savings associated with the move. Briscoe acknowledged that one of the bigger challenges with the program is its operating costs. The district will have to hire additional staff for Chesebro – including a custodian, a health assistant, secretary and part-time administrator – at a total of $210,000 a year, with other costs coming in at $73,000.

The school district has a budget deficit of $2.3 million this school year.

“There are a lot of things the board will have to work through,” Briscoe said.

Both Briscoe and board president Tom Matya said Tuesday’s presentation would be informational only, and no vote will be taken.

The decision to implement an EC/Pre-K program was unanimously recommended by the board’s finance and facilities advisory committee in April. The committee is a group of school officials, teachers and community leaders that meets regularly to devise ways for the district to cut costs.

The committee recommended implementing the program for 2013-14 school year, but Briscoe said that decision is ultimately up to the board.

Another consideration for the board is the issue of changing the boundaries of the different schools. With new classrooms becoming available, where students go to school could be shifted because some of the schools are overflowing. However, Briscoe said this is a separate decision the board will have to make in the future.

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