In response to a long waiting list of parents hoping to get their children into the Farmington Collaborative Preschool, Superintendent Kathleen Greider proposed adding another class and funding it by taking an additional six Project Open Choice students.
The state offers per pupil reimbursement as well as other grants based on percentage of school and district population for those participating in Open Choice, the state program that allows students from urban areas, specifically Hartford, to attend suburban schools. Farmington currently has 97 Open Choice students enrolled - 2.3 percent of the district's population.
Greider explained at the Board of Education meeting Monday night that Farmington uses the Open Choice funds to pay for several programs, including math tutors, professional development, cultural enrichment programs and the entire cost of tuition for Farmington students who choose to attend CREC magnet schools.
Now, Greider would like to see it pay for another classroom at the preschool at Noah Wallace School.
There are a couple of benefits, Greider said, including opening up space in the popular program for Farmington students currently on the waiting list. Also, she said, Project Choice students coming into the district will have the advantage of attending the preschool program, putting them ahead when they start school.
"We believe there is a lot of research to show bringing students in at the pre-k level has a long-term impact," she said. "Bringing them in at a pre-k level is preferable for us."
Enrolling six to eight Open Choice students (at a reimbursement rate of $8,500 per pre-k student) would allow the program to be self-sustaining, once tuition for Farmington students is included. Each class has about 18 to 20 students.
To continue to be self-sustaining, the program would have to enroll six to eight new Open Choice students each year, Greider said. The proposal would bring the district's percentage of Open Choice students up to about 2.6 percent, she estimated - not enough to bump the district into the next bracket, which is awarded a larger grant.