Waterbury school officials working to fill pre-k slots - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Waterbury school officials working to fill pre-k slots

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The Waterbury Public Schools District was working quickly to fill its remaining open spots for preschool by the end of the calendar year. 

At the end of last month, school administrators realized there were more than 100 slots that hadn't been filled meaning they could lose funding from the state going forward.  

Eyewitness News spoke with the chief of staff for Waterbury Public Schools to find out what's being done to ensure these spots are filled by the end of this week.  

Big changes were made these past few weeks to ensure these open spots are filled, which included a change in leadership.

"For the children, it’s very important to their educational process,” Waterbury Public Schools Chief of Staff Robert Brenker said.

Brenker said the department had been tasked with filling more than 100 open slots for preschool by the end of this year with only a matter of weeks left in 2016.

"This year, we had 1,280 slots available for us in Waterbury to fill,” Brenker said. “Towards the end of last month, we found out we had about 111 that weren't filled."

These slots were funded by the state's school readiness grant program and the city has a full calendar year to ensure every spot is filled.

This grant helps make pre-k much more affordable for families as the cost is determined by every family's income.

"If we were to go back three years, two of the last three years the state had taken away slots from us because we didn't fill them,” Brenker said. “And the state can't give the city slots and have us not fill them, and leave other cities begging for more so they adjusted the total."

From the end of last month until now, the number of unfilled spots has dropped down to seven. Brenker said that's mostly because there was a change in leadership.

"We did make a change in the school readiness grant coordinator position, someone new was brought in who was familiar with the program,” Brenker said. “It's helped tremendously and we anticipate filling the last seven seats by the end of the week.

James O'Rourke is the CEO of the Greater Waterbury YMCA, which serves 205 preschool students and their families. O'Rourke said these early-education programs were crucial to the community.

"We have enough youth in the city of Waterbury who need the service, and we need to reach out and make sure we're reaching out to everyone,” O'Rourke said. “And the jeopardy of losing those spots and knowing, some kids might not have the opportunity next year is super concerning."

O'Rourke said after finding out about these unfilled spots, he was thrilled to see how fast the remaining slots were filled, which made it possible for more three, four and five year-olds to get into the classroom setting much sooner.

"One incredible thing is the collaboration form the not for profits, the city of Waterbury all coming together, recognizing we need to do this together,” O'Rourke said.

If you live in Waterbury and you have a child you'd like to enroll in pre-school, please call the coordinator's office at (203) 573 - 6684. 

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