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Pre-K state funding affects area schools

WORTHINGTON — Additional state funding has been awarded to 59 public and charter schools across Minnesota to support voluntary pre-kindergarten and school readiness programs.

However, 164 schools that applied for the one-time funding boost will have to do without, due to a lack of resources, according to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s office.

Worthington Independent School District 518 was one of 223 Minnesota schools that applied for the funding. An accepted request would have supported 32 children.

“It was going to offer slots to 4-year-olds at no charge,” District 518 Early Childhood Family Education Coordinator Tara Thompson said. “With that, we would have been able to expand some other program with the ECFE and school readiness program.”

Thompson said the funding would have been another revenue source to expand programming that already exists. Programs will continue under other funding sources, she added.

“If we have some of those revenue sources available to us we can try to make them work, but really if we’re truly going to make those work and benefit us — by increasing the number of students — we really need to acquire more space,” Thompson said.

Jackson County Central also applied but did not receive funding for its estimated 90 pre-K students.

Jackson County Central Superintendent Todd Meyer said when the district applies for grants, it’s with the assumption that it won’t receive it.

“That way we move forward, and if we do receive it it’d be a nice surprise,” Meyer said.

Meyer said the district does receive $37,500 from the Minnesota Department of Education’s Pathways II scholarship.

“We were hoping on getting another another $37,500 and it didn’t come through, and that’s fine, we’ll keep moving forward like we were doing,” he said.

Other area schools that applied but did not receive funding and the amount of students affected include Luverne Public School District (12) and Windom Public Schools (32).

Edgerton Public Schools received better news with the governor’s Aug. 4 announcement. The school was awarded $154,535 to invest in 25 pre-K students.

Edgerton Public Schools Superintendent and Elementary Principal Keith Buckridge said the program has been operating on tuition and a need-based scholarship.

“But now we’ll be able to take that Pathways II money and hopefully use it for the 3-year-olds,” Buckridge said.

The funding will require some schedule changes. The tentative plan is to have two groups of students on a rotating schedule, where one group will attend two full days of instruction a week while the other receives three full days. The groups would alternate the following week.

There will be a parent information meeting regarding the year’s upcoming voluntary pre-K program at 7 p.m. Aug. 15 in the Edgerton High School lobby.

In addition to the additional $50 million in one-time funding, 74 Minnesota schools will also receive ongoing funding that began the 2016-2017 school year.

Heron Lake-Okabena Public School District will receive $74,352, and Round Lake-Brewster Public Schools will receive $124,461.

Alyssa Sobotka

Alyssa joined The Globe in July 2017 and covers education and crime beats. The Nebraska native earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. In her own sarcastic tone, her blog, Aimlessly Navigating, recounts the reality, pitfalls and triumphs of a young 20-something navigating to maturity. Follow her on Twitter: @alyssasobotka

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