December 4, 2021

Pre-K funds for Dryden, DeRuyter

Districts get piece of $15M in state money; classes begin in January

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Dryden universal pre-kindergartner Marquas Sweat, right, listens as his teacher Erin Preston, left, reads a holiday children’s book by Anna Dewdney on Thursday.

The state has announced $15 million in funding for pre-kindergarten programs statewide — among them are programs in Dryden and DeRuyter.

The $313,099 allocated this week for DeRuyter School District means the district can restore the program that it dropped in the 2017-18 school year — a strategic move at the time that has paid off. The decision saved the district $83,400 that year and allowed it to qualify for funding now because of a federal rule that allows districts to supplement local expenses with state or federal aid, but not replace them.

Superintendent David Brown said the funding announcement allows the district to open two sections of pre-kindergarten. “This allows us to provide the education that we feel is very important to give our 4-year-olds a strong educational start in their development without burdening the local taxpayers,” he said in an e-mail Thursday.

Dryden’s $114,624 will allow the district to add another section of universal pre-kindergarten, said Superintendent Josh Bacigalupi.

Bacigalupi said the district got a call from the state late in the summer informing district official the district was identified as having high need, therefore eligible to apply for the funds.

Student density, free and reduced lunch rates and the number of English as a Second Language students all play into the designation, which creates an index. A score above 75 is considered high needs; DeRuyter’s is 89.8; Bacigalupi didn’t have Dryden’s score.

Dryden school officials submitted the application in early November and were excited to hear the news Wednesday, Bacigalupi said. It means another 18 families will be served at no cost to the district.

The funds will cover a teacher and supplies. Now the district must prepare the classroom and notify the families from a waiting list of about 30 that their children can attend in late January. It’s not much time to prepare, he said, but the district will make it work.

“That stipulation comes from the state,” Bacigalupi said. “The new section has to be open for 90 school days and we’re about halfway through the school year so that’s our drop-dead date.” Bacigalupi said he is still waiting for clarification on whether the funding steam will be a recurring line.

Brown said anyone in the district interested in attending pre-K can contact the district at 315-852-3400.

The $15 million is funding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had promised in his budget address earlier this year, when he unveiled plans to expand prekindergarten access for 3- and 4-year olds in high-needs districts — a category that included Marathon, McGraw, DeRuyter and Cincinnatus.

Marathon Superintendent Rebecca Stone said at the time the district couldn’t apply because it already operates two sections of pre-kindergarten, Cincinnatus gets about $150,000 for pre-K, using another $33,600 in local funds to pay for two sections, and McGraw was awarded $260,512 in the 2017-18 year to cover its program.

Brown said that by the district cutting the program at the end of the 2016-17 school year, it ensured there was no funded program and therefore it could qualify for the program.

“We are beyond excited to get our program started next month,” he said.