WFMZ: Pre-K expansion celebrated in Schuylkill County

By James Esposito Jr. November 16, 2022

A ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday celebrated the expansion of Pre-K Counts program at the Coaldale Complex as part of an effort to provide more access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs.

The complex is part of the early learning partnership the Lehigh Valley Children’s Center has with Panther Valley School District.

Expansion of Pre-K Counts was made possible by the inclusion of $79 million in additional pre-kindergarten funding agreed to in the 2022-23 state budget, including $60 million for Pre-K Counts and $19 million for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program, LVCC reports.

The funding will provide approximately 2,300 additional Pennsylvania students access to high-quality pre-kindergarten.

In the Panther Valley School District, the funding will pay for two new classrooms, which will provide 30 more children with high-quality early education, Shawn Bariana, marketing and communications manager of Lehigh Valley Children’s Center, said.

This will make a total of three Pre-K Counts classrooms in the district. The pilot classroom started in fall 2021 in Nesquehoning, and the two classrooms in Coaldale are an expansion of this successful model, Bariana said.

“We know that 67% of income-eligible 3- and 4-year-olds in Schuylkill County do not yet have access to publicly funded high-quality pre-K,” Charles Dinofrio, CEO/president of Lehigh Valley Children’s Centers, was quoted in a news release. He said that equates to more than 6,600 students of those ages who still lack access to such services in the county.

“Across Pennsylvania, more than 100,000 eligible 3- and 4-year-olds are waiting,” he added.

Bruce Clash, state director of Fight Crime: Invest In Kids and a principal partner in the Pre-K for PA Campaign, said access to high-quality pre-kindergarten is an important part of a child’s opportunity to lead a prosperous life.

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