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Wood moving toward universal Pre-K enrollment

March 4, 2011

PARKERSBURG - Wood County Schools continues to grow its prekindergarten programs in an effort to reach universal enrollment by 2013.

Karen Brunicardi, director of elementary schools and the county's preschool program, said more classes have been added each year, both within and out of public schools.

"We have 39 classes this year. Twenty-two of the 39 are collaborative, either with child cares or Head Start," she said. "We added four new classes this year. Our current enrollment in Pre-K is 740 students.

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A pre-kindergarten class at Franklin Elementary Center lines up for a trip to another part of the school.

"Next fall we will have 41 classes. We are adding a new collaborative class in Mineral Wells Elementary and the school system is putting in another at Franklin for special needs students," Brunicardi said.

All of those classes and student enrollments mean the school system is well on-track to make universal enrollment within the next two years, she said.

Universal enrollment means classroom space for at least 80 percent of the district's prekindergarten-eligible student population. For Wood County Schools, that number is about 800 students, with officials estimating about 1,000 children in Wood County are eligible for pre-kindergarten enrollment each year.

About 56 percent of the district's 39 Pre-K classrooms are done through collaborative programs. State law requires at least 50 percent of programs be done as collaboratives.

The West Virginia Board of Education announced in August that 15 West Virginia counties have implemented universal pre-kindergarten programs, up from five the previous year. The board approved 40 other county plans outlining how they plan to adopt preschool programs for all students by 2012.

Those counties that have met universal preschool status are Braxton, Clay, Cabell, Harrison, Jackson, Lewis, Mineral, Pleasants, Randolph, Roane, Summers, Taylor, Tucker, Tyler and Wirt. By the end of the coming school year, Wood County will be among the school systems listed as having implemented universal pre-kindergarten.

0All other counties have submitted plans to enact universal preschool.

Wood County Schools officials have voiced concerns over meeting the universal enrollment, pointing to the growth of the prekindergarten program as helping student enrollment numbers remain stable during the last several years. Officials said without the inclusion of new Pre-K programs, Wood County's enrollment numbers likely would have dropped by 50 to 100 students each year.

West Virginia has been recognized nationally for a progressive state law that requires universal preschool be available to all of the state's 4-year-olds by the 2012-13 school year. In 2009, preschool enrollment neared 14,000 children, about 72 percent of those eligible. About 70 percent of the programs are in collaborative settings with Head Start, child care and private programs.

State code requires counties to submit a plan to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the West Virginia Board of Education every two years outlining progress. The board approved the plans at its July meeting.



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