Paris Union School District 95 has been awarded a $390,000 grant from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to expand its services to preschool students, the Paris 95 board of education learned Monday, Aug. 12.
The grant, according to Paris 95 Superintendent of Schools Jeremy Larson, allows for 60 additional children in the district to attend preschool — either full day or half-day.
Larson was initially concerned the biggest challenge in implementing the grant might be finding the additional teaching staff needed. The additional positions were filled and – as of Monday’s meeting — only 28 student positions remained open.
“We’ll fill those,” Larson said. “The phone is ringing off the wall.”
Larson said the grant was prepared by former Memorial School principal (now superintendent of schools in another district) Gary Doughan as well as Wenz School principal Megan Carroll, assisted by Mayo School principal Kyle Shay.
The grant is guaranteed three to five years. It was originally thought the grant would not be awarded until September — which would have created challenges to put the program together. The superintendent said he called the ISBE every day seeking to learn the status of the grant application.
“You could’ve knocked me over when we heard the news,” Larson said, noting the district had already received another preschool grant to expand the program in 2018.
“We have 160 in our preschool program,” he said. “It’s a very exciting time to provide access to these children.”
In addition to providing free preschool, Larson said the grant covers transportation and breakfast and lunch and supplies.
Due to the recent addition in the number of students the district may accept, the schedule for preschool had to be changed. Preschool parent orientation is at 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19, in the Memorial School cafeteria. Scheduled classroom visits are the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 21 and Thursday, Aug. 22.
Parents may sign up at orientation for classroom visit times.
The start date for all preschoolers is Friday, Aug. 23.
“If you have not received a letter of acceptance and you want your child to be considered for preschool, please call 465-8448,” Larson said.
Larson also reminded board members all Paris 95 students in grades preschool through eighth grade will receive free lunch and breakfast this year, thanks to the USDA Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).
Paris 95 joins Shiloh, Kansas and Chrisman in the CEP program. CEP is a non-pricing meal service option for schools and school districts in low-income areas. CEP allows the nation’s highest poverty schools and districts to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications. Schools that adopt CEP are reimbursed using a formula based on the percentage of students eligible for free meals based on their participation in other specific means-tested programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Paris 95 is committed to participating one year in the program, Larson said. Continued participation will be determined by how much the reimbursement is to the district.
Larson also announced the school will begin the year 100 percent staffed in the classroom. Larson is serving in a dual role again this year — as superintendent as well as Memorial School principal due to the late departure of Doughan.