SEDGWICK — The Sedgwick Elementary School and community members are working to build a pre-kindergarten program.
A void was left this year when Child & Family Opportunities discontinued a Head Start program at the school.
“We had a Head Start program here and essentially we did not have enough Head Start-eligible kids to fill the spaces we had,” said school Principal Don Buckingham. Families needed to meet certain criteria to enroll their children.
“When other schools and the Y offered early childhood care, that hit our population because we were a peninsula, a regional group, not just a Sedgwick group,” Buckingham said.
Organizer and Sedgwick middle school social studies teacher Jessica Valdez, said, “It’s a huge money saver long term for public schools to have early child care in their setting.”
Creating a pre-K program is “not something you do overnight,” Buckingham said. “It requires support, not only financial support from the town but general support from the community.
“The biggest obstacle, of course, is funding,” the principal said. The school anticipates such a program to cost $60,000 to $90,000. There is $35,000 left from the previous program.
The Sedgwick pre-K would be regional. Children from other communities could enroll if space permits.
“We see ourselves as part of a bigger community,” Buckingham said.
The school needs to hear from families that would use a pre-K program.
Buckingham said there’s a chance of offering a program for both 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds or just 4-year-olds.
Valdez has a vested interest.
“It affects me as a mom and as a teacher,” Valdez said. If students have had a pre-kindergarten class, “by the time they get to me it makes my job 10 times easier. A huge amount of what kids need to be successful in an academic setting as well as life comes from 2 to 8.”
“We have so many kids coming to school unprepared, you can see a big difference,” Valdez said. “It’s huge.”
As residents of a town without a public pre-K program, Valdez and her husband are paying $200 a week for private preschool. Meanwhile, the couple are expecting a baby. They would like to not have dual child care fees for preschooler and baby.
Kelly Samperi lives in Sedgwick and is expecting a child.
“It’s definitely a need in the community,” Samperi said. “I think there’s a financial need for parents to go to work and have a low-cost or no-cost facility in place.”
“Sedgwick tends to have a lot of education needs and behavioral needs,” Samperi said. “If you can get them addressed at the pre-K level, these kids are going to do so much better.”
“Parents and community members are definitely in support of this, so I think they’re trying to get everything ironed out,” Samperi said. “And find the money, that’s the big thing.”