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Three NNY school districts receive $215,000 for full-day pre-K, learning centers

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Three Northern New York school districts have secured funding for expansion of pre-kindergarten programs and creation of community learning center programs.

The $215,000 in funding was secured by state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, for Watertown City School District as well as Oswego and Fulton city school districts. It is a one-time award of grant money to the three districts, which were identified based on their needs threshold.

In a press release, Mrs. Ritchie wrote, “I am thrilled to be able to help provide this funding, which will go a long way towards ensuring the students in our region have access to top-notch educational opportunities that set them on a path for bright futures.”

Watertown City School district was one of 27 New York school districts to receive the funding, determined to be in high need as calculated by the state Education Department.

Terry N. Fralick, Watertown City School District superintendent, said it still is unclear how the district can spend the $108,000 it is to receive.

“There hasn’t been any distinction if we can use the money to hold full-day pre-K or we have to use the money to build a learning center,” Mr. Fralick said. “I’ll have to wait and hear. It’s a little frustrating but it’s not uncommon to hear we’ll be getting money but not told how we can use it.”

The district currently has half-day pre-K, with students coming to the school only for the morning and then another group arriving for the afternoon to learn the same materials.

Until it is clear how the district can use the money, Mr. Fralick said, he can’t say how it is going to help. If the district gets full-day pre-K, he said, it would need to make room to accommodate all of the pre-K students all day.

The funding announcement was made two days after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Jan. 8 State of the State address, in which he mentioned pre-K would be a priority for the state.

“The governor’s executive budget will be out on Jan. 21. Any discussion of the governor’s plan is premature until that point,” Morris Peters, press officer with the state Division of the Budget, wrote in an email to the Times. “We can circle back on this after Tuesday. But I can’t let any cats out of any bags before then about what might be in the new budget.”

Last year, Mr. Cuomo added $25 million for full-day pre-K, targeted toward higher-need students in lower-wealth school districts that applied. Mr. Peters wrote the $25 million is on top of the existing $385 million already invested in statewide pre-K programs.

Watertown was awarded $81,936 for the 2013-14 school year to provide pre-kindergarten. Mr. Fralick said the program has been funded through a universal pre-K grant over the past few years.

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