McKeesport school district oversees pre-K program

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Community members mourning the loss of Long Run Children’s Learning Center have yet another change on the horizon: McKeesport Area School District has taken over as the lead agency coordinating the Pre-K Counts program.

Before the center closed, it coordinated the everyday running of the Pre-K Counts program, including enrolling students and providing teachers and paraprofessionals for one full- and two half-day classes. Now the district will serve as liaison for the program, is looking to hire new pre-K teachers and has moved the full-day class to a different building.

Approximately 50 students have enrolled in the state-funded program for the new school year. The program is part of a statewide initiative sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education providing free half- and full-day prekindergarten to almost 12,000 3- to 5-year-olds who meet income requirements, are English language learners or have special needs.

It was previously organized by Long Run, which offered other community services, including toddler groups and a Bridge to Kindergarten program, for more than 100 district children. Long Run's board of directors voted in July to shutter the center after more than 50 years in operation.

The full-day pre-K class was previously housed at Twin Rivers Primary/Intermediate School. At last week’s legislative board meeting, the first of the new school year, education, legislation and policy committee chair Mary Jane Keller announced the class would be moved to the White Oak Elementary building for the upcoming school year.

The school closed in 2013, and already houses the two Pre-K Counts half-day programs as well as the district’s sixth-graders while construction is completed on an additional wing for Founders’ Hall Middle School. The district approved the move “due to space and the desire to have them all in one location together,” district spokeswoman Kristen Davis said.

“The change from Long Run to the district enables the district to have oversight of the program,” Ms. Davis said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “Additionally, we feel the continuation of this program is important for families in our community to give the students an early start.”

The board is looking to hire two teachers and three paraprofessionals — one teacher for the full-day and another for the two half-day classes. While the positions were posted “for the interest of our certified teachers in the district,” Long Run teachers are eligible to apply as well, Ms. Davis said.

According to the 2014-2015 approved district calendar, students are scheduled to begin school Aug. 27. Calls and emails to Ms. Davis requesting comment about when the district is looking to hire the teachers went unanswered.

Open positions posted on the district’s website include substitute nursing assistants, nursing assistants, crisis intervention specialists, substitute custodians, substitute food service personnel and substitute instructional assistants. Openings for pre-K teachers were not listed. Ms. Davis could not be reached for comment about where the positions are posted and how long they are open.

Ms. Davis said the district has yet to determine how long the preschool students will remain in the building beyond this school year.

Clarece Polke:; 412-263-1889 or on Twitter @clarepolke.

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