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posted Jan 8, 2015, 2:37 PM by Sam Rigby

Westbrook Schools and The Opportunity Alliance to create one additional Pre-K/Headstart Classroom with grant funding 

The Westbrook School Department, in collaboration with The Opportunity Alliance, will receive funds to expand the Public Pre-K Partnership currently housed at the Westbrook Community Center, as sub grantee of a Maine Department of Education grant.

The Maine Department of Education has been awarded $14.8 million to expand public preschool opportunities in 10 counties across the state. Over the next four years, the department will pass 95 percent of the funds awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to 13 school districts with high percentages of low-income students to expand or establish preschool programs.

In total across the state, 33 new classrooms will be created and most, including the one in Westbrook, will be open next September. The Westbrook School Department serves a student population with approximately 58 percent qualifying for free or reduced lunch. Expanding preschool opportunities for low-income students is a priority for the district.

“Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Marc Gousse noted: Early childhood education is a fundamental component of student success; research, proven best practices and data affirm children who are Kindergarten ready will undoubtedly meet or exceed achievement benchmarks while also experiencing positive growth socially and emotionally. In Westbrook, students participating in our Pre-K and all-day Kindergarten programs have flourished-our very own children are fortunate to benefit from this strategic investment in their future.”

Studies show that high-quality early learning programs generate a significant return on investment. Numerous studies have documented a rate of return of $7 or more on each dollar invested through a reduced need for spending on other services, such as remedial education, grade repetition, and special education, as well as increased productivity and earnings for these children as adults.

Maine has been a leader in expanding access to early childhood education and provided $13.8 million this year in State funding to support programs, matched by $17 million locally. Enrollment is entirely voluntarily and there are currently more than 5,000 4-year-olds participating in public preschool programs in the state, more than double the number enrolled just a decade ago.

“As access to public preschool increases, it’s critical we keep a focus on ensuring the quality of new and existing programs,” explained Maine DOE Acting Commissioner Rachelle Tome. “To truly give kids the strong start they need for success in kindergarten and beyond, preschool programs must be high quality, where instruction is intentional and grounded in research-based learning standards and proven best practices. That said, setting high expectations early on does not compromise the fun that children at that young age deserve. As those of us who have been fortunate to work with young children know, it’s impossible not to have fun with 4-year-olds and learning activities can be created that are both rigorous and promote play so that social, emotional, physical and intellectual development is fostered.”

The Maine DOE’s grant application earned the second highest number of points among the 36 states who applied for the federal funding, with 18 states ultimately receiving awards.