ACAP, Limestone school partner for daylong pre-K

2 years ago

LIMESTONE, Maine — A new partnership between Aroostook County Action Program and Limestone Community School will become the first school-based program in the Limestone region for full-day pre-kindergarten, expanding educational opportunities to more children.

In a region where licensed daycare providers are difficult to find, working families often struggle to fit their schedules around the school’s morning pre-K program. Less time in school also means fewer opportunities for students to gain the academic and social skills necessary to transition into kindergarten.

But starting this fall, more children and families will have access to full-day classes and additional support services. That’s good news in Aroostook County, which despite a slight decrease during the pandemic, has had the highest numbers of public pre-K students in Maine.

Limestone is one of 14 Maine school districts receiving funds allocated from a total of $2.7 million in coronavirus relief monies. Limestone’s share amounts to $87,968 while ACAP is contributing $76,551 to support salaries for new pre-K staff and other workers. Part of the total funds will support construction of a new pre-K playground at the school.

ACAP also offers all-day Head Start and pre-K at SAD 1 in Presque Isle and RSU 50 in Dyer Brook and full-day pre-K at centers in Caribou, Fort Kent and Houlton.

Limestone’s new program will use a similar curriculum to ACAP’s Head Start, which emphasizes social and emotional development and family engagement. All families of enrolled children will have access to ACAP services, including social workers, health and nutrition and workforce development.

Despite the all-day schedule, each day will alternate between periods such as learning time, game time and naps, and include breakfast, lunch, snack and recess periods, said Megan Barnes, director of programs for ACAP Early Care & Education.

“It’s about providing more comprehensive services to families,” Barnes said, on the partnership’s purpose. “We know that enrolling children in school at a younger age sets them up for greater success academically.”

Per the collaboration, Limestone will provide the classroom and full-time teacher while ACAP will provide additional ed techs, curriculum support and professional development. Sixteen students will be eligible for fall enrollment, compared to the 10 students enrolled in Limestone’s half-day program this year.

The five-day schedule from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. will give families greater access to work and educational opportunities, Limestone Principal Ben Lothrop said.

“I think there has always been a need [for all-day pre-K],” Lothrop said. “For some families, it’s a struggle to find someone to watch their kids when the bus drops them off. This [new partnership] will help meet everyone’s needs.”

Pre-K teacher Wendy Zubrick, who formerly worked as an ACAP Head Start aide, has seen the benefits of full-day classroom time for children and families.

“It gives the students more support as they’re learning and growing and more support for parents trying to figure out their work and school schedules,” Zubrick said.

Correction: A previous version of this story said that the ACAP/Limestone pre-K partnership will be the first school-based pre-K collaboration in Aroostook. ACAP also offers full-day pre-K at SAD 1 in Presque Isle and RSU 50 in Dyer Brook.