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Long IslandEducation

Three Village district to offer free half-day pre-K this fall

The Three Village school district's Nassakeag Elementary School

The Three Village school district's Nassakeag Elementary School in Setauket. Credit: Jasmin Frankel

The Three Village school district will offer a tuition-free, half-day prekindergarten program in the fall, becoming part of a growing effort in public schools across Long Island and the state to educate the youngest learners.

The program at Nassakeag Elementary School in Setauket will allow for enrollment of 200 students, who will be selected by lottery. It will be held Monday through Friday, with a morning session and an afternoon session each day, school officials announced this week.

Applicants must be district residents and 4 years old on or before Dec. 1, 2017. Children also must be toilet-trained to be accepted.

The free pre-K will be fully funded through the district’s annual budget, district officials said. The itemized cost of its operation has not been calculated, but it will not cause the district to pierce its property-tax cap, they said.

It replaces a program that the district has operated for the past two school years in conjunction with SCOPE Educational Services, under which students’ families paid tuition for full-day or half-day classes. In the 2015-16 school year, tuition was $1,155 for the full-day program and $400 for the half-day program, according to the SCOPE application form.

“It has been clear throughout this time that the educational foundation students receive in their formative years is indicative of the success they achieve in the future,” Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said. “As such, we are excited to be broadening our district offerings in order to provide our community with a prekindergarten program that is directly aligned with our district’s mission, curriculum and educational philosophy.”

Lucinda Hurley, executive director of the Nassau BOCES Department of Strategic Initiatives, which has organized an Islandwide pre-K initiative, lauded the Three Village district for offering such a program.

The initiative recently helped the Hicksville school district open a prekindergarten program. The group also has asked the state for funding to establish a technical assistance center for pre-K on Long Island to help others create such programs.

“Pre-K-aged children are at an important developmental stage, and the learning that they will experience in such a program will build a strong foundation for learning,” Hurley said. “Three Village’s decision to provide free pre-K supports equity in education and the health of the local economy.”

State Education Department officials and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo have strongly advocated for increased educational opportunities for the state’s youngest learners.

In November, the state Board of Regents, which sets education policy, approved a proposal to streamline funding for pre-K programs with the goal of making it easier for school districts across the state to apply to expand their programs.

In 2013, Cuomo committed to a five-year phase-in of universal pre-K. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio expanded universal pre-K and has provided a full-day classroom spot to every 4-year-old in the city.

Earlier this month, Cuomo announced the awarding of $10.4 million for 25 high-need school districts to serve 3-year-olds. None of the districts was on Long Island.

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