Montclair schools start looking at Pre-K expansion efforts
By ERIN ROLL
With the announcement of new state funding for Pre-K, Montclair may seek funding in hopes of expanding its Pre-K services.
Currently the Montclair Community Pre-K handles Montclair’s three and four year olds. The school is a not-for-profit, but gets some support through the district and is also tuition-based. It opened in 1998, after the district was forced to eliminate its own Pre-K program due to state cuts in funding and budget constraints.
The school currently teaches about 200 students.
In a resolution passed on June 18, the board voted to set up a task force to explore bringing the program back to the district with the hopes of getting more state funding for a Pre-K and Head Start programs. In April, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that New Jersey intended to commit an additional $53 million in funding for Pre-K programs across the state.
The resolution calls for Superintendent Kendra Johnson to “begin the process of exploring how incorporating a publicly-supported Montclair preschool program...how it could take place and how such [a] program might be eligible for additional state and/or federal funds.”
Possible settings for new preschool programs could include schools, child care centers, Head Start programs and family child care homes, the resolution reads.
The next step is to set up a task force that includes district staff and administrators, as well as representatives from Pre-K providers outside the district, Johnson said after the meeting. The group had been having informal discussions since January, but the task force will officially start meeting sometime during the summer, she added.
A meeting schedule will be made public at a later date, Johnson said.
The Montclair Community Pre-K has a sliding scale for tuition payments, in which families pay what they can afford. The program also receives some financial support from the schools and the township.
Board member Eve Robinson has been especially vocal about the need to expand Pre-K offerings in Montclair.
After the meeting, Robinson pointed out that the resolution had been meant for Johnson’s office, as a request for the office to take action on pursuing Pre-K options. “And she’s committed to doing that, so we’re excited,” she said.
The board brought up a first draft of the Pre-K resolution during its Feb. 7 meeting.
But during that same meeting, board member Joe Kavesh raised concerns about where the money to fund the program was to come from. Now that Murphy has committed to funds, the district can apply.
“We would do ourselves a tremendous disservice if we didn’t get going now,” said Stephanie Fitzgerald, former MCPK’s executive director, at the meeting.
The district set up a hotline for parents and guardians looking for a Pre-K program in the area for their children. The Child Care Resource and Referral hotline can be called at 973-744-4050.
Information about the Pre-K program and other resources may be found on the Early Learning section of the district website: montclair.k12.nj.us/district/equity-curriculum-