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Gov. Mills to distribute $2.7 million to expand access to pre-K programs

This funding, from the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, will be split among 14 school departments across the state.

BANGOR, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills announced Tuesday that she will distribute $2.7 million to expand access to pre-K programs across Maine. The money will allow 14 school districts to increase both availability and accessibility to these programs. 

The funding can be used for buying or renovating space, staff recruitment and training, and other necessary start-up costs. It can also expand existing programs to fit the community's needs better. 

The grants will expand access to pre-K for more than 500 children across the state, according to a news release from the governor's office.

Tara Williams works for the nonprofit Maine Association for the Education of Young Children.

"They use these funds to support school districts to partner with head starts, YMCA's, small and large childcare programs to open up new classrooms both in elementary schools and in those already existing childcare programs. So now, parents have more choice and children have more options," Williams said.

School departments establishing new pre-K programs:

  • Appleton Area School District
  • Greenville School Department
  • Kittery School District
  • St. George Municipal School Unit
  • Yarmouth School Department

School departments expanding existing pre-K programs:

  • Bangor School Department
  • Limestone School Department 
  • MSAD #49 (Fairfield, Benton, Clinton, Albion)
    MSAD #54 (Skowhegan, Smithfield, Norridgewock, Mercer, Cornville, Canaan)
  • RSU #22 (Hampden, Newburgh, Winterport, Frankfort)
    RSU #39 (Caribou)
  • St. George School Department
  • Sanford School Department
  • Vassalboro School Department

School departments reestablishing pre-K programs:

  • RSU #24 (Eastbrook, Franklin, Gouldsboro, Mariaville, Steuben, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor)
  • Yarmouth School Department 

The Bangor School Department plans to use the nearly $75,000 in funds they'll be receiving to expand half-day pre-K programs to full-day programs at two of its elementary schools: Downeast School and Abraham Lincoln School.

In fall 2021, the school district launched its first full day, Monday-Friday preschool program at Vine Street School and the program has succeeded so far. 

Emily Robinson is the pre-K teacher at the school. 

"We're seeing their academic growth faster because they're here for a full day," Robinson said. 

Robinson said a full day of learning helps with academics and social skills like sharing and compromising. The teacher said she can keep their short attention spans on track throughout the six-hour days by keeping things fun and interesting. 

"We're engaging in really fun topics and activities. It keeps them interested," Robinson said.

"Research shows for many years now here in Maine and across the country that when children have access to that full daycare and learning, there [are] wonderful benefits from it," Williams said.

Beyond the educational benefits for students, a full day of class can also be helpful to working parents. 

"Often families also really need those full-day hours just like they do for their kindergarteners and older because they're working, and it's what supports their ability to work and take care of their family," Williams said. 

Lynn Silk is the principal of the Vine Street School. She said this additional help for families, in turn, "gives an opportunity to provide equitable access to all of Bangor's children."

The second round of grants totaling $6.3 million will be distributed later in 2022 for future projects and programs.

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