Coatesville Area school board has turned its four prekindergarten classes at the Gordon Early Learning Center over to the Chester County Intermediate Unit — a move which will save the school district over $1 million.
During the board's Sept. 10 meeting, Interim Superintendent Richard Dunlap Jr. called the move both an opportunity and a tough decision as the school board accepted leadership from CCIU.
Dunlap said both Coatesville and CCIU had applied for the same expansion grant funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but funds were awarded to CCIU, which operates nine Head Start centers in Chester County.The preschool program costs the district $744,990 annually.
Coatesville’s four prekindergarten teachers will this month train staff hired by Jacalyn Auris, director of student services for CCIU, to help ensure a successful transition for students. The four will then move to new assignments on Sept. 23, Dunlap said.
Auris told the school board her staff will work to make the preschool program a Coatesville program, not a CCIU program, by bringing building principals to Gordon to meet with students and their families. Staff will also make quarterly home visits and host frequent social events at Gordon to connect students to the Coatesville district — in hopes of encouraging families to remain in the district instead of moving on to charter or private schools after preschool.
While one resident lauded the move, two preschool teachers voiced sadness about the sudden change. Resident Beth Brindle reminded the board the community has been asking for transparency and called the change “a big decision that needed more consideration and time.”
The board approved CCIU’s offer by a 7-2 vote, with James Hills and Tom Siedenbuehl casting no votes. Earlier this year residents spoke in favor of the district managing its own special education programs. In June, the board added five special education supervisors to the 2019-20 budget.
Auris said the grant will cover the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, and she has a high level of confidence funding will continue beyond the next two years.