Edinboro University’s Early Childhood and Reading Department has been awarded a $297,500 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and Department of Human Services (DHS) to expand operations for the University’s Pre-K Counts preschool program.
According to Dr. Mary Jo Melvin, chairperson of the department, Edinboro can serve an additional 35 students with the grant, courtesy of DHS’s Office of Child Development and Learning. Since 2013, EU has offered Pre-K Counts, which served 80 total students in 2016-2017, to children in Erie and Crawford counties at no cost to participating families.
“Due to poverty levels and other circumstances, some of these students might not have a chance to participate in preschool services without Pre-K Counts,” said Melvin, an EU faculty member since 1990.
Edinboro operates Pre-K Counts programs at Meadville Children’s Center, YMCA of Corry and Timber Ridge Daycare Center in Conneautville, Pa., thanks to a continuous grant of $680,000 from the Commonwealth. With the new funding, which was approved on July 31, Edinboro plans to increase preschool seats at the Meadville and Corry operations and add locations in Cambridge Springs, Pa., and on campus at EU.
“I’m excited because we now have funding to provide more seats for children who really need preschool,” said Robin Howell, an instructor in EU’s Early Childhood and Reading Department and Pre-K Counts liaison since 2012.
Edinboro’s Pre-K Counts program, which is available to 3- and 4-year-old preschool children, offers students and their families early learning curriculum, health screenings, developmental assessments and complimentary meals. Each preschool teacher is required to have obtained both a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and educational induction certification from the Northwest Tri-County Intermediate #5 and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Howell, who submitted the grant application on behalf of Edinboro University, acts as the intermediary between EU and each Pre-K Counts site. In addition to her role as liaison, she is scheduled to teach three courses this fall at EU.
“Because of the connection to Edinboro University, Robin makes sure the student-to-teacher ratio is intact, the teaching practices are appropriate and that all of the grant reporting is completed,” Melvin said.
In 2013, Edinboro received its initial Pre-K Counts funding for $544,000 – a figure which has increased to the current $680,000 as of 2015-2016. At a cost of $8,500 per student, EU served 80 students this past academic year. Along with the new funding allocation, EU also received recertification for the continuous $680,000 grant.
Melvin said that Pre-K Counts educators ensure that the skills and resources are extended beyond the preschool classroom.
“This program is instrumental in providing videos and resources for parents to ensure that they are better equipped to help their children at home,” she said.
This fall, EU hopes to connect students in the School of Education with the Pre-K Counts program to provide on-site practice towards teacher certification.
To learn more about programs within EU’s School of Education, visit www.edinboro.edu/soe.
Photo caption: Bryce Higley, a Corry High School graduate and frequent Pre-K Counts volunteer, works with preschool students at the Corry branch of the YMCA.