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The Weedsport Central School District is set to get state funding for its prekindergarten services, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office announced Wednesday.

Weedsport, which will receive $126,432, is one of 16 school districts approved for funding, according to a press release. The total fund amount, $5 million, is meant for school districts classified as high-needs districts but Weedsport was an exception.

Doug Tomandl, Weedsport's assistant superintendent for business, said the district, while not classified as high-needs, decided to apply because some local high needs districts who have already secured extra pre-K funding from the state have been able to expand services, including the establishment of programs for 3-year-olds.

This frustration led to the district working on establishing a universal pre-K program through its 2017-2018 budget. The program, along with the rest of the budget, was passed by taxpayers in May. The services for 4-year-olds began in September.

'We thought, 'Even if we have to support it locally, our community deserves this, our children need it,'" Tomandl said.

Tomandl said he, district Superintendent Shaun O'Connor and district board of education member Ron Springer met with state Sen. John DeFrancisco in the spring to lobby for pre-K funding from the state. While Tomandl said he isn't sure if that helped their cause, he said the district believed in the importance of a pre-K program.

Districts were given the funding based on the quality of a district's application, student and district needs, and other factors, according to the governor's office.

O'Connor said the district believed a pre-K program would help prepare younger students for the state's education requirements. The district applied for the funding at the end of July.

"Every indication shows how important early child education is for success later in (a student's) school years," O'Connor said.

Tomandl said the district has been "pre-approved" by the state for the money, but the state comptroller's office still has to make sure the district will fulfill all of the requirements for the funding.

He isn't sure when the district will receive the funds. O'Connor said he doesn't know what will happen to the money already established for the pre-K program in light of the grant, as the 2018-2019 budget is still being developed.

Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.


Education Reporter