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Universal Pre-K is coming to East Meadow schools

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Parents were elated to learn that the East Meadow School District would be offering Universal Pre-Kindergarten, after Superintendent Dr. Kenneth A. Card proposed the program to the Board of Education on May 26.

“While students will learn the letters of the alphabet, how to count, one of the things that’s really critical to childhood learning is purposeful and intentional play,” Card said. “Our program will be structured around that concept.”

The program is funded by a $970,000 New York state grant. And because the grant requires districts to collaborate on the program with a community-based organization, the East Meadow school board decided to partner with Scope, which provides Universal Pre-K programs across Long Island.

The district has enough funding to offer the program to 180 students, who will be divided into 10 classrooms. Students will be chosen through a lottery system in which any family that applies and is eligible will be assigned a number. The numbers not selected for the program will be placed on a waiting list.

Richie Krug, president of the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and his wife, Taleen, have signed their daughter up for pre-K. “We have a kindergartner currently,” Taleen said. “Both my husband and I have been through McVey and the East Meadow School District ourselves, so once we heard of this, we were extremely excited. We were actually there for registration and handing in the paperwork.”

To be eligible for the pre-K program, students must turn 4 by Dec. 1; their parents must provide evidence of appropriate immunizations and updated physicals, as required by the state; and they must be district residents. The waiting list will remain active throughout the year, and as more students move through the program, those on the waiting list may be called to join the program.

The lottery is scheduled for June 16.

“My youngest daughter, Summer, will be eligible for pre-K this upcoming September,” said Kim Gonzalez, co-leader of Daisy Troop 1119. “I’m going to apply and see how it works out. I think it will be great to acclimate my daughter with regular school and the classrooms, and be comfortable with the environment and the routine, coming from a day-care setting.”

The program features longer classes — five hours a day five days a week. The district’s original half-day pre-K program was held a couple of days a week.

“I had our son, who’s in kindergarten now, do the pre-K through the . . . district,” Krug said. “It was, I believe, an hour and a half, two times a week. I had him in another pre-K as well, and [Universal Pre-K] would basically alleviate that, [allowing] my daughter to be there on a consistent basis.”

Classes will be held in school buildings, and two classrooms in each elementary school will be devoted to the program. Holding the classes onsite rather than elsewhere will mean less cost per pupil, which in turn will mean that the program can enroll more children. That is important, Card said.

The program is expected to begin on Sept. 2.