TRENTON — Egg Harbor Township will receive $2.8 million in state funds to expand its preschool program to full-day beginning in February 2021, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.
The district, which this September began its first year offering full-day kindergarten, is among 10 school districts receiving a total of $10 million in Preschool Expansion Aid.
School board President Pete Castellano said the district was thrilled to be receiving the aid.
“Early childhood education, including full-day kindergarten, as well as universal preschool, is the single most important educational service we can provide to help our students learn,” Castellano said.
School leaders in Egg Harbor Township said last year they were hoping to qualify for the aid to expand the current preschool program and open more seats, but first needed to expand the kindergarten program, which was also half-day. The half-day preschool program currently costs $200 a month, but the new state aid will make the program free to residents.
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Castellano said the district’s plan is to begin the program Feb. 1 with 20 classrooms. He said the timeline to start, although not ideal, was set by the state, and the district did not want to miss its opportunity to receive the funding.
The district opened up preschool registration earlier this month, available on the district website.
Murphy said Monday the expansion aid will increase the number of preschool seats in awarded districts by 818, while enhancing the quality of their existing seats.
Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan said research shows the youngest learners with access to high-quality early education show long-lasting benefits, as do their families and their communities.
“We are extremely excited to work with the 10 school districts awarded these funds to increase the number of children they serve, expand the length of their program day and anchor their services in research-based practices,” Allen-McMillan said.
As in years past, school districts that were eligible to receive a Preschool Expansion Aid award included those that had previously received partial state funding to address pockets of poverty, or are based in communities that have at least 20% of their student population receiving free or reduced price lunch.