State authorizes $80K for new preschool

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Southwest School District plans to start classes Dec. 15

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has approved an $80,000 grant toward a new preschool program in the Southwest School District.

Springfield-based Missouri Equipment Leasing Inc. will construct and transport a 1,296-square-foot modular building to house the preschool children on the southeast corner of the Washburn campus. The classroom space has to be at least 700 square feet to accommodate for the maximum of 20 students in both the morning and afternoon sessions.

The building will also have office areas, restrooms and a small kitchen area. The district has to then build a separate, age-appropriate playground with an approximate size of 1,500 square feet.

The state fire marshal has to first approve the plans, said Bob Walker, district superintendent. The Missouri Preschool Program, under DESE, authorized the grant.

"We're hoping to begin classes no later than Dec. 15, which is a pretty tight timeframe," he said. "But, we're going to certainly give it our best shot. We'll just have to be disseminating information to the public on definite enrollment times and the start of the program as things fall into place."

The district has to lease the building because it does not have any classroom space, and it has budgeted for a certified teacher's salary. If any classroom exceeds 10 students, then the district has to hire a paraprofessional teacher's assistant. This year's budgetary estimate is $102,000 for the preschool project.

"Anything over the $80,000, that will be something the district will have to absorb," he said. "Obviously, we want to stay as close to that $80,000 as we can."

The district already has a federally-funded preschool program called early childhood special education. That program has admission guidelines, which hinges on income and special needs that children might have.

The new companion program does not have those qualifiers. Early childhood special education has nine students in each of the morning and afternoon sessions.

The Southwest School District covers Seligman, Washburn and portions of McDonald County. District enrollment is 769, as of Aug. 14.

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