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How Two Western Mass. Cities Keep Kindergarten Free

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CHICOPEE/HOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB) — Eighty Kindergarten students attend Chicopee’s Patrick E. Bowe school, all free of charge.

“We provide snacks for all of our ‘KG’ students, and we’re fully accredited with NAEYC, which is a federal agency that will come in, check our accreditation, and make sure our schools are up to their standards as well,” said Principal David Drugan.

Drugan adds the federal grants are a big help, but so is the way the city allots money, so that the district can be in this position.

Income is a big qualifier for grants like the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The tens of thousands of dollars that come from NAEYC offsets teacher’s aide salaries, and also keeps the kindergarten cost free for Chicopee.

Over in Holyoke, no federal money is used to keep the full-day program free. It’s all state funded.

In both cities, parents have to open their wallets for Pre-K, with costs varying on a sliding scale, according to income.

“We’ve been very aggressive on trying to create Pre-K in all the schools. Right now, we have Metcalfe as the place to get Pre-K, but we are exploring the possibility to get Pre-K centers open throughout the city as part of the schools,” said Holyoke Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sergio Paez.

“Pre-K is offered, it’s not free. Preschool is not mandated by the state, we’d like to see that expanded, we have early intervention, or special education needs,” Principal Drugan added.

In Chicopee, special needs students attend free of charge.

Dr. Paez says he hopes to expand the Pre-K program, so that children can enter the Holyoke school system, and stay there through high school graduation.


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