A series featuring communities that have a plan to expand preschool.
Photo: Courtesy of Lisa Kuh
Photo: Courtesy of Lisa Kuh, the Director of Early Education for Somerville Public Schools

Somerville serves only about 45 percent of the 4-year-olds who could potentially enroll in preschool.

Our Preschool Expansion Strategic Planning Grant inspired us to develop a three-year plan that builds upon existing partnerships and adds 108 additional seats in a mixed-delivery system. To do this in the upcoming 2017-18 school year, Somerville Public Schools (SPS) will expand its collaboration with Head Start to accommodate 36 more children in classrooms taught by both SPS and Head Start teachers.

In 2018-2020, we hope to add up to 72 slots across community-based childcare providers for income-eligible families. The cost per child includes pay equity for teachers, administrative support for directors, coaching and curriculum support, and comprehensive mental health and family services. We hope state funding will support this expansion.

The length of the school day in Somerville Public Schools is also an issue for families. Public programs end at 1:45 p.m., and we only serve 27 percent of 4-year-olds in afterschool programming. To address this, our Community Schools afterschool program is expanding seats for 4-year-olds in all SPS sites where there are preschool classrooms. However, because many families will still struggle to find and pay for care that meets the needs of working parents, we will need additional funding strategies to help income-eligible families pay for full-day care.

A cornerstone of Somerville’s work is strong curriculum development. We believe every child can learn if offered high quality experiences. That’s why we focus on well-designed environments, access to materials, inquiry-based curriculum, and development of scope and sequences for literacy, math, and science.

With more funding, we would be able to expand coaching and curricular support for public and private centers — as well as expand our pilot Comprehensive Service Team, which offers behavioral and mental health consultation to center-based programs. All this growth would pay off for our kids.

Submitted by: Lisa P. Kuh, Director of Early Education, Somerville Public Schools