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Gainesville pre-K teachers to work full school year

Their duties will shift when pre-K isn't in session

POSTED: March 22, 2011 12:06 a.m.

Gainesville pre-kindergarten teachers will continue to work a full 180 days next year under a new plan approved by the Gainesville City school board Monday.

Gov. Nathan Deal announced earlier this month that the pre-K school year could be cut from 180 days to 160 days and class sizes would increase by two students to 22 each. The move will allow the state to slash $54 million from the cash-strapped program while adding 2,000 slots.

The changes were part of efforts to keep the lottery-funded HOPE scholarship from going broke. Lottery money also goes toward pre-K programs.

Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the district wanted to develop a plan that would keep pre-K teachers at work and their salaries intact.

For the 20 days pre-K isn’t in session, the teachers will co-teach kindergarten through fifth-grade early intervention, special education and English as a second language classes.

Dyer said the district would receive some state funding to help make up the lost income.

Under the new plan, the system will also offer day care services for $115 a week during the 20 days, which would include transportation and breakfast and lunch service.

Registration for the pre-K drawing will begin March 28.

Following the school board meeting, board member Delores Diaz said she believed it was the best solution for Gainesville.

“It saved most of the teachers income and it keeps kids in pre-K,” she said. “It will also offer day care when the students are not in pre-K, so parents won’t need to seek baby sitters.”

She added that she was also relieved Deal revised his plans for pre-K.

In his original proposal, Deal said the state’s pre-K program would be cut to a half-day, but the plan was revamped after an outcry from parents and teachers.

Board member Maria Calkins said the district believes pre-K is valuable to 4-year-olds. Data shows children who receive early learning are more likely to be successful when they enter kindergarten, she added.

“By rearranging things, we can make (pre-K) work again,” she said.

In other business, the board also discussed plans to conduct architect interviews for Fair Street International Baccalaureate School next week. The elementary school, originally built in 1937, will be torn down and rebuilt on the same site later this year, because of deterioration and safety concerns.

Board member David Syfan said most school districts purchase land when they prepare to build a school, but the district is locked into the current location.

“I want to find out what experience they have with a much smaller land area and putting in what all we need there,” he said.
Construction on Fair Street is slated to begin this September.



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