Mercyhurst University President Tom Gamble, Ph.D., Erie's Public Schools Superintendent Jay Badams and Early Connections Executive Director Nancy Kalista today announced a new collaboration aimed at expanding access to pre-K education to students in the City of Erie.
The Mercyhurst University and Erie's Public Schools partnership will make approximately 100 additional slots available to eligible families and add pre-K classrooms for 4-year-olds to seven of the city's elementary schools, providing a more consistent early childhood experience and strengthening participating children’s transition into kindergarten.
Early Connections, which has provided early childhood programming since 1979, will serve 3-year-old pupils and accommodate an additional 20 children at three sites throughout the city.
Combined, the program will offer a full-day pre-K experience to 160 students. The program is being funded by a $1.18 million grant from Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, a competitive grant program established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and administered in Erie by Erie's Public Schools.
"The collaboration with Mercyhurst University has allowed us to use this funding creatively and build full-day programming with no increase in grant funding," said Badams. "Full-day pre-K is attractive to many of our families and we're excited about the opportunity to ensure that more students have this opportunity and enter kindergarten ready to learn."
“Mercyhurst University is pleased to add this PreK partnership to the two existing agreements between our education department and Erie's Public Schools,” said Gamble. “The Autism Support Classroom and the Carpe Diem Academy were both initiated in recent years, and now with the PreK partnership, students enrolled in our education programs will be afforded an additional opportunity to make an impact and gain valuable experience in an urban setting.”
The Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program is based on standards adopted for pre-kindergarten by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The full-day program will focus on math, science and language arts and students will be taught by early childhood-certified teachers. In the city's seven schools, an Erie City School District teacher will teach one half of the day and an early childhood-certified teacher pursuing graduate study at Mercyhurst University will teach the other half of the day. A paraprofessional will also be in each classroom throughout the day to provide consistency and a ratio of 10 students per adult.