District moving forward with universal pre-K

Fayetteville-Manlius School District officials are working to add an early childhood education initiative to the district’s academic program and anticipates opening the registration process for families this spring.

Starting with the 2022-23 school year, the district plans to offer a full-day Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) program for four-year-old children who reside within F-M’s geographical boundaries. UPK is a state-funded program that introduces young learners to the school environment and focuses on intellectually, socially and emotionally preparing children for kindergarten. 

“We’ve heard from many families who are excited about the program,” F-M Superintendent Craig J. Tice said. “Providing students with an environment that nurtures social development, creativity and school readiness will help children thrive in school and beyond.”

Because F-M’s three elementary school buildings are already at capacity, the district plans to administer the program off-site at a qualified community agency. The program will follow the New York State Prekindergarten Learning Standards and utilize the Teaching Strategies Creative Curriculum.

The district recently solicited proposals from community agencies that are interested in hosting the program. The submissions are under review and district officials will make a hosting site recommendation to F-M Board of Education members sometime in April. 

“We look forward to growing a partnership with a community organization that is well-versed in the needs of young learners,” Tice said.

Once a hosting site is confirmed, the district will announce the UPK program’s registration and enrollment processes. 

Who is eligible to attend pre-K?

The program is open to all children who reside within the district’s boundaries and are four years old on or before Dec. 1, 2022.

The district plans to offer up to 84 seats in the first year, but enrollment capacity will depend on where the program is hosted. If there are more eligible applicants than can be served in a given school year, the district will conduct a lottery-based system to determine who attends the program. 

The lottery will select attendees on a random basis. New York state regulations prohibit a district from prioritizing eligible students for any reason, including economic background. Each child will be entered into the lottery as an individual student and will be selected at random. The selection of one twin, triplet or household member has no effect on the selection number of any other siblings during the lottery selection process. 

If a lottery system is utilized, students who are not randomly selected will be placed on a waiting list. If any vacancies occur during the school year, they will be filled until the waiting list has been exhausted. 

Enrollment in the UPK program is not mandatory. However, enrolled students must adhere to the school district’s attendance policy. The program will operate five-days-a-week and will follow F-M’s district calendar, with 180 days of school (September through June) each year. The program’s daily length will be determined once a hosting site is set.

How will the district pay for pre-K?

The district will provide the UPK program at no cost to families. 

New York state’s 2021-22 budget included funding allocated for school districts to expand or establish pre-K programs. Because F-M does not have an existing program, it is receiving $453,600 in state funds to establish one.

The state’s budget proposal for 2022-23 also includes funding for this program.

More information about the program will be shared on the district’s website once logistics and a registration process are established.