Sherman superintendent to propose full-day preschool program ‘at no cost to residents’

The Sherman School

The Sherman School

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SHERMAN — Come fall 2022, 4-year-olds in town may be able to attend a full day, five-day-a-week preschool program.

Sherman Superintendent of Schools Jeff Melendez is proposing a brand new program for 4-year-olds called PEEPS, or Preschool Early Enrichment Program in Sherman.

He wants to make it free for parents.

“The goal is for it to be universal — at no cost to residents,” he said.

PEEPS is designed to enhance students’ readiness for kindergarten by providing 50 percent more learning, Melendez said.

“Four year old preschool students will benefit from two additional hours of enrichment per day that will systematically introduce and enhance literacy skill development, social skill development and early learning readiness skills,” he said.

For the past two years, the Sherman School, which has students from kindergarten to grade 8, has had a part-time preschool program available to every resident, called SAIL (Sherman Activities in Learning). There are currently 21 students in SAIL, at a cost of about $225 a week, per student.

PEEPS would be an “embellishment” of the SAlL program, which will continue.

“This year, we have one full-time and one part-time teacher, so part of the budget impact here is I’m increasing part time to full time for both teachers,” Melendez said.

The cost to run PEEPS is the total cost for all the staffing, which would also include three para-educators. The budgetary to the school district increase next year to run PEEPS would be $28,452.

Melendez previously recommended a free preschool program but it didn’t get approved. This time, he said he’ll more strongly push for it.

“I’m going to insist that we make it free because we don’t want to have any barrier for a parent not to send their kids to preschool,” he said.

He said, according to research he did, “one of the best interventions is early intervention so that you can provide that type of support and have continuity between preschool and kindergarten,” Melendez said. “That really addresses a lot of issues.”

He added that he feels children who attend Sherman’s preschool program are better prepared for Sherman’s kindergarten program than those who attend other area preschool programs or those who don’t attend preschool at all.

“What we found is the kids that are in our preschool and then transition to our kindergarten do much better because they’re used to the same curriculum,” he said.

There would be no transportation provided by the school for PEEPS. To prevent congestion with buses, the program would start about 30 minutes later than the rest of Sherman’s school day and end about 30 minutes earlier.

At the next budget committee meeting on Jan. 12, Melendez will present PEEPS and suggest it first be offered as a Pilot program to current 4 year olds, from March to June. At the end of the trial period, he said the Board would determine what, if any, modifications would be needed to improve the program.

Grant money from federal ESSR, or pandemic relief funding, would offset the cost of the Pilot program, he added.

Aside from presenting PEEPS, at the Jan. 12 meeting, which will be live and on Zoom, Melendez will also present the full 2022-2023 school budget. The budget is finalized at the end of April.

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