4.3 percent difference
Slightly higher Title 1 numbers help Midland get grant for full-time K-class accredited at Jackson

       No sooner did full-time kindergarten get accredited at Jackson Elementary this year than District 11 announced plans to relocate it to another school.
       Midland Elementary, which has slightly more students from needy families, will start benefitting from the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) grant next school year that has been serving 15 “high-risk” Jackson students since 2003-04.
       Jackson kindergarten teacher Lucia Pelletier said she understands its's a “school district choice,” but added, “It's a sad, sad thing for Jackson. I think there will be some parents who were counting on it, and it's not going to be here for them.”
       Because kindergarten is only funded half-time by the school district, full-time is generally only available at schools where parents pay tuition for the additional teacher salary, or at district-defined “Title 1” schools.
       This school year, Title 1 applies to schools where 54 percent or more of the students come from families with incomes low enough to qualify them for free or reduced meals.
       Under the latter definition, Midland is deemed a Title 1 school because 56.1 percent of its 171 students (based on last fall's annual count) qualify for free or reduced meals. Meanwhile, Jackson falls just short of Title 1, with 51.8 percent of its 274 students qualifying.
       A year ago, the Title 1 cut-off was 50 percent. However, last spring, a district committee decided to increase that amount to 54 percent starting this school year, according to Title 1 Coordinator Holly Brilliant.
       Under the CPP grant guidelines, a “high-risk” designation is based on more than parents' income. Other factors include whether students have a single parent, the age of the parent(s), and how strong their English is. Parents were asked to submit detailed application forms, according to Pelletier; those chosen for the class were the 15 determined to have the highest risk.
       Midland has limited full-time kindergarten now (on a first-come, first-served basis), funded by state money through Title 1. The CPP grant, supplementing the Title 1 grant, will allow the school to offer full-time to all school students that age, according to Kathy Howell, District 11's early childhood facilitator.
       “The populations are very different between those two schools,” explained Howell, who was not involved in the administrative decision that initially put the high-risk program at Jackson. “We determined there is more of a risk factor at Midland. You have to look at the needs of the district and see what's available.”
       Pelletier, along with an aide position that is also funded through the CPP grant, will transfer to Midland next fall and teach the class there. Although she admitted feeling a “pull to stay at Jackson,” where she has taught for nine years, Pelletier is also a strong advocate of full-time kindergarten - serving on a committee that meets periodically with the the Colorado Department of Education - and said she wants to remain part of that effort.
       “Studies prove full-time kindergarten pays off, because you're nabbing the students at the very beginning,” she said. It's especially important for students considered at risk, because the potential is higher for them to fall behind, she pointed out.
       Pellitier believes the Jackson program has been successful. “It's incredible what we've accomplished with them,” she said.
       The accreditation for Jackson's full-time program came from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which has provided similar services throughout the district, according to Howell.
       “They watched me teach, looking at the entire setup of the classroom, safety issues, academic centers, every possible thing you can imagine,” Pelletier recalled. “They were here forever, it seems like.”
       Jackson Principal Anne Dancy said that although she'll be sorry to see Pelletier's class go, the school will “provide as much support for those (high-risk) families as we can.” She has also encouraged Jackson parents to consider a tuition plan to pay for a school-wide, full-time kindergarten teacher.

Westside Pioneer article