AGS opens new preschool program

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Au GRES — The Au Gres-Sims School District will be offering preschool programs for the first time this fall thanks to the Michigan Great Start Readiness Program, according to Superintendent Jeff Collier.

In the past, AGS has shared preschool programs with Arenac Eastern or rented rooms at the school out for private preschool groups. The difference now, Collier said, is that the school is now able to run its own in-house program thanks to recent legislation in Lansing that expanded the state’s preschool program.

Through the state’s Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), the Bay-Arenac ISD received a certain number of slots for preschool students. Since the legislature voted to expand the program, more slots were available for AGS to run its own, Collier said. Previously the district only had 10 slots, while AE housed and ran the program.

“Each district in the ISD applied for slot allocations, and the ISD was able to divvy those spots up accordingly,” Collier said. “We applied for 16 slots, and were gracious to receive 16.”

Classes will be held at the AGS elementary school section four days a week in a room decorated specifically for preschool students.

“We have a beautiful classroom right in the elementary hallway,” he said. “It’s very easily accessible to restroom facilities for our students. It’s brand new, bright and shiny and ready to go.”

Collier said it will run regular school hours, and students will receive a universal breakfast and a hot lunch. They will also be eligible for bus transportation. AGS will be following the Michigan Department of Education-endorsed Early Childhood Standards of Quality for Prekindergarten curriculum.

Collier said the GSRP works in association with the federal Head Start program, and kids who qualify will be able to remain in that program for preschool. If they do not qualify for socio-economic reasons, they may still be able to enter the program for a sliding scale tuition fee. Collier said the specifics could be determined in each case when parents or guardians apply for the program at the school’s main office.

Enrollment will be prioritized based on students falling into the state’s risk factors for educational disadvantages, such as a socioeconomic disadvantage.

The preschool will have two teachers for the 16 students, a lead teacher and an associate teacher. Collier said the lead teacher is specially endorsed by the state for early childhood education, while the associate teacher requires other certifications.

Collier said there will be no class on Fridays, and the teachers will take that time for professional development or to make home visits to students.

The district expects the program will make students more capable, confident and enthusiastic learners, Collier said, and should help transition them into kindergarten.

He hopes the program will be revenue neutral thanks to $7,250 per-pupil funding for the preschool students from the state, acknowledging that the program’s expenses include teacher salaries and student materials.

People interested in learning more about the program can call the main office at 989-876-7150. Collier said an enrollment form is also available on the district’s website, ags-schools.org.

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