With more than two dozen students on its waiting list, 's preschool program has just received a big, much-needed funding boost.
East Haven is among the 38 towns across the state awarded a total of 1,000 new school readiness classroom slots for the 2012-13 school year. The supplemental grants were awarded as part of the state's sweeping passed earlier this year.
At least 60 percent of the children enrolled must be at or below 75 percent of the state median income. Tuition for the program is determined on a sliding scale.
'A Whole New Opportunity'
Last school year, East Haven received $107,000 from the state for its school readiness program, which served a total of 30 children in two classes.
This year, however, the district will receive an additional $116,000 in funding — more than doubling the total grant amount it receives from the state — allowing the center to add 14 more spaces for students.
The additional slots means a third classroom of students can be added to East Haven's program, which is housed within the at .
"This is going to be really huge. We're really excited and I'm still up in the clouds," Mary Varunes, the center's director, told East Haven Patch.
"It's a whole new opportunity to service more students and families. And because of that, it's going to open a lot of doors additionally here in the community, too," Varunes said.
Alliance District Grants
East Haven Schools qualified to apply for the additional school readiness funding because of its designation as one of Connecticut's , also known as the Alliance Districts.
Alliance District membership is determined by the state education department's newly created "District Performance Index." The school systems with are placed in the group.
In addition to the increased school readiness funding, East Haven could also receive some from the state for fiscal 2012-13 due to its Alliance District designation.
Expanding the Center?
The district has also applied for a second competitive grant opportunity through the Alliance District designation, according to Assistant Superintendent of Schools Erica Forti.
At Tuesday's school board meeting, Forti said if approved, the funding would benefit the Family Resource Center's overall program.
"If awarded this grant, we'll be able to open up another center," Forti said.
'It Starts Here'
Varunes said the district's early childhood education programming is paramount to future achievement and success of students later on in their academic careers as they move up through the school system.
"It starts here," Varunes said. "If you can't grab these children and families now, and instill the importance of a quality education, you're going to lose them. And you're not going to regain them in middle school or high school."
The director added that a few years ago, the district only had one school readiness class. It then expanded to two. And now, it has the ability to serve even more students through the new grant funding.
"So we're very excited to see the progress made over the last few years," she said.