More slots available for at-risk preschoolers

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The Moffat County School District will receive 25 more slots to provide preschool education to at-risk students under the Colorado Preschool Program.

Bills passed during 2008 state legislative sessions will fund the slots.

Additional slots boost the School District's CPP count to 75.

Children must have academic risk factors to qualify for the program.

Eligible parents can choose to send their child to the Early Childhood Center or Sunrise Kids, LLC, Preschool & Child Care, a private provider that contracts with the School District.

Parents can pick up CPP applications at the Early Childhood Center, 775 Yampa Ave. or Sunrise Kids, 700 School St.

The tables have turned for at-risk preschoolers.

Recent state funding increases will allow 25 more at-risk students to receive preschool education this fall through the Moffat County School District and a contracted provider to give preschool education.

Added slots in the Colorado Preschool Program probably will be enough to usher qualifying students into the program - a far cry from previous years, in which more students were eligible for the program than available in the School District.

"That's the exciting part," said Sarah Hepworth, Moffat County School District Early Childhood Center director.

Additional slots will boost the School District's total CPP count to 75, which likely will be close to the number of students eligible for the program, she said.

The CPP, which operates under the Colorado Department of Education, pays for preschool enrollment for students who show certain academic risk factors, including free and reduced lunch eligibility.

In 2008, the Legislature passed a bill that allotted 300 more openings in the CPP program and converted more than 2,000 full-day kindergarten slots into at-risk preschool openings. An additional 300 preschool students are estimated to cost about $987,000, said Lori Bowers, Colorado Preschool Program consultant.

The Childhood Center and Sunrise Kids, LLC, Preschool & Child Care - a private provider that contracts with the School District - can absorb additional students who can now apply for the program.

Both providers said they have room to grow.

The School District plans to relocate one preschool class from the Childhood Center to a pilot preschool program scheduled to launch at Ridgeview Elementary School this fall, Hepworth said, leaving room for more students at the Childhood Center.

Hepworth said she's also planning on hiring two more teachers to accommodate more students.

Judi Whilden, Sunrise Kids owner and director, also said she's ready to make more classroom space for incoming students.

"Whatever needs to be done, we can pretty much accommodate," she said.

Whilden said that because some of her current teachers work part time, she doesn't think she'll have to hire more staff to teach added students.

Ultimately, however, the number of added students each enrolls will depend on which program eligible parents choose for their children.

"There's really no way of knowing how many (additional students) I'm going to have," Whilden said. "I just always look at it as I can accommodate as many as apply."

Applications for the Colorado Preschool Program are available at the Moffat County School District administrative building, 775 Yampa Ave., or at Sunrise Kids, 700 School St. For more information about the program, call Sarah Hepworth at 824-3268 or Judi Whilden at 824-9307.

Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1795 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com

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