The Springs School is one of the few remaining East End districts that does not have a full-day prekindergarten program, but that’s about to change. Owing to a $420,000 grant received from New York State specifically for “universal prekindergarten,” there will be a full-day program for families with 4-year-old children starting in September.
Debra Winter, the district superintendent, described the money as an “expansion” grant that will enhance the program at Springs. The district already receives $62,100 for U.P.K., as it’s commonly called, which is enough to help pay for 23 half-day spots, serving children in morning and afternoon sessions. The district also has space for 12 children in an integrated classroom that serves students in the special education program.
With the expansion, Springs will be able to accommodate at least 42 children in the full-day program.
“It is huge for this community. They’ve been asking us for it,” Ms. Winter said. “We could barely afford the half-day U.P.K. program.”
Prekindergarten enrollment is underway now at the Springs School. The deadline is Friday, Feb. 11. To be eligible, children must be 4 years old by Dec. 1. If the district registers more students than it has classroom space for, a lottery system will be used to award spots. More details are on the district’s website, springsschool.org.
Springs relies on two outside organizations to provide prekindergarten services: Just Kids, which focuses on special education, and SCOPE, which serves 27 other districts in Suffolk and Nassau Counties. Springs and SCOPE had a relationship between 2010 and 2018 at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in East Hampton, before Springs began sending kids to the Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center. The prekindergarten program returned to the Springs campus in 2021.
Springs was one of six Long Island districts to receive funding in this round of competitive grants. Universal pre-K has been shown to boost physical well-being and kindergarten readiness.
“That’s why the money is important,” Ms. Winter said. “That new grant includes furniture, playground stuff, snacks, and more. I’m so excited — I’m so thrilled for this community.”
Mellisa Krauss, director of instructional services for SCOPE, said the full-day program will be five hours of instruction that meets state standards, which cover academics, playtime, and development of cognitive, social, and emotional skills. Class sizes will be capped at 18, and each will be staffed with a teacher and a teacher’s aide.
“It gets them accustomed to longer instructional time that looks much like a kindergarten classroom,” Ms. Krauss said.
She said she was involved in discussions several years ago to bring a full-day SCOPE program to Springs, but there were financial obstacles in the way. Now, she said, not only will children benefit from extra time with their teachers and peers, but working families will also benefit from the longer day at school.
The Springs administration has “worked very cooperatively with us. . . . They’re a great fit for our program,” Ms. Krauss said.