As Columbia County public school officials prepare for Friday’s prekindergarten drawing, state budget alterations again might change the school system’s pre-k offerings, but not as drastically as last year.
The state Senate approved Gov. Nathan Deal’s budget proposal last week. Though it still had to win the approval of House lawmakers, the budget included funds to add 10 days to the pre-k school year, but eliminated 2,000 slots.
Last year, Deal added 10,000 slots to the lottery-funded pre-k program, but cut instruction days from 180 to 160.
Facing salary cuts because of losing 20 work days, all of Columbia County’s pre-k teachers sought jobs at higher grade levels last year, said school system Director of Elementary Learning Michele Sherman.
But with the governor adding more money to increase the length of the program, Sherman hopes it helps stabilize it.
“The hope is we can retain more teachers,” she said. “Many of us are really worried about the teacher turnover rate at the end of (last school) year.”
To make up for the exodus of pre-k teachers to other grade levels, officials last year hired many rookie teachers willing to work at less pay.
Now, Sherman said, many of those teachers are eyeing full-time jobs at higher grade levels.
“That’s going to happen every single year until we get back to equal pay.”
To compensate for even more cuts Deal made to the program because of dwindling lottery revenues, the local school board last year halved the pre-k offerings to just 10.
For this school year, pre-k classes will be offered at Baker Place, Brookwood, Cedar Ridge, Euchee Creek, North Columbia and South Columbia elementary schools. Grovetown and North Harlem elementaries will have two classes.
Each class will contain 22 pupils, except those at Grovetown, Baker Place and South Columbia, which will contain 14 regular education pupils and six special needs pupils.
The drawing for slots starts at 8:30 a.m. Friday in the auditorium of the Board of Education office on Hereford Farm Road.
Sherman said parents of entered pupils may attend the drawing, and the results will be published on each affected school’s Web site.