Garfield Re-2’s last universal preschool meeting slated for Tuesday
More than 140 families within the Garfield Re-2 district have applied since word got out that Colorado is implementing universal free preschool.
The district has spent February hosting family nights, where anyone with kids turning 3 or 4 before Oct. 1 are being informed on how they can apply for the district’s upcoming universally free preschool program.
Garfield Re-2 Early Childhood Coordinator Emily Kielmyer told school board members that the last family night is scheduled for 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday at Highland Elementary, 1500 E. 7th St. in Rifle. The district, however, continues to take applications, which can be found at https://www.garfieldre2.net/parents_community/how_to_enroll.
“We’re seeing a very strong turnout and a lot of interest in our preschool programs,” Kielmyer said. “There’s a lot of excitement there.”
Free universal preschool came about after Gov. Jared Polis signed it into law in April 2022. At the time he signed the bill, the Colorado Department of Early Childhood said it would save Colorado families an average of $6,000 a year. The program promises 4-year-olds access to at least 10 hours of tuition-free preschool services per week, and its funding source is through a nicotine tax approved by Colorado voters in 2020.
When it came to the applications, Kielmyer said Polis estimated that the state should only receive 32,000 since universal preschool is in its pilot year.
“Within the first window of applications — January 17 through now — we have over 28,000 applications in the state,” she said. “They are very confident that we are going to blow that 32,000 out of the water and keep on going from there.”
The district is already working on obtaining grant funding to help implement universal preschool this fall.
Kielmyer said the district is going to submit an application on Monday for an $800,000 employer-based childcare grant through the state’s early childhood department. If attained, the funds will be used to put in a modular universal program set to create four additional classrooms at Wamsley Elementary School in Rifle. March 25 is when the district should receive word of whether the application is being granted.
Kielmyer also said the district is going after a $200,000 grant to furnish preschool classrooms at Wamsley, as well as another $50,000 grant to furnish an existing three pre-K classrooms at Elk Creek Elementary School in New Castle.
Kielmyer said receiving the grants will hopefully increase the capacity to accept more students into Garfield Re-2’s upcoming universal free preschool program. Increased capacity means an increased change the state will provide more funds to hire more preschool instructors.
“That’s good to hear that you guys are already planning ahead and you’ve got this much involvement this early in the year,” school board member Jason Shoup said.
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