The Effingham County Board of Education has approved a recommendation to temporarily integrate pre-kindergarten and pre-school intervention students into their district elementary schools beginning next fall.
At the previous board meeting, Superintendent Randy Shearouse presented three savings solutions concerning pre-k: keep the kids at Marlow Learning Center and Central Learning Center, consolidate the two campuses at the old Effingham County Middle School or send them to their home elementary schools.
This situation is not new to Effingham. Before Marlow Learning Center and Central Learning Center were built, pre-kers attended school at their elementary schools.
The Effingham school system is facing extreme budget constrictions with $11 million in previous cuts and expectations of an additional $6 million–$7 million in loss in state funds.
“We want to try to preserve our personnel,” Shearouse said at Wednesday’s BOE meeting. “We want to try to preserve our programs that we have in place. There’s a lot of school systems that have cut programs like music, art, chorus, and that’s what we’re going to try to avoid.”
The estimated savings over two years of relocating pre-k into their home schools is at least $1.2 million from eliminating the cost of running two extra facilities, including excess nurses and janitorial staff, Shearouse explained at the last board meeting. While the state provides funding for pre-k and pre-k teachers through the Georgia Lottery, the facilities, maintenance and other associated expenses were paid for locally.
Shearouse clarified to present parents, teachers and board members that PSI and pre-k students would not lose any of the services they currently enjoy. He said that most of the staff positions will not be effected because the same number of teachers, paraprofessionals and other pre-k personnel would be needed after the move.
While the board conceded that this is not the ideal situation, board members, parents and teachers attending the meeting found the move appealing.
Board member James Dasher pointed out that the situation would be beneficial for the PSI students in particular because they would be able to stay at the same school with the same teachers, administrators and staff from pre-school until fifth grade. Shearouse concurred, saying that the principals are excited to have their students a year earlier so those children can adjust to their elementary schools.
He reiterated that the students would have shorter bus rides and would be at the same school as their brothers and sisters as positive aspects.
Shearouse said he does not intend for this condition to last longer than two years, as the county continues to grow and elementary schools reach capacity.
“This is one way to have savings without cutting classes or jeopardizing any programs,” he said.