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Parents speak up to save PAT program
Thursday, June 13th, 2013
Issue 24, Volume 17.
The PAT program, currently held at the Mike Choate Early Childhood Education Center, is a free program designed for children newborn to five-years-old. One full time teacher and one part-time aide help parents coordinate classes that include music, and arts and crafts. The board was asked to vote on whether or not they should fund the program for the upcoming year and/or if they should use the facility for a reading support program.
However, parents rallied together on June 3 to voice their concerns, the board took heed and made a choice to stay their vote until their July meeting.
"It felt like a win," said Melinda Rowe, FUESD PTA president. "What we hope to do in that time is make the board aware of the programís benefits and where we hope it will go in the future. [PAT] is such an amazing thing in our community; it would be so sad to lose it."
Rowe, who has had her own children be a part of the PAT program, believes that the program helps children develop through various stages of development while bringing everyone together.
"There are a couple of classes where the crafts are seasonally oriented, and there are tables that help develop kids academically," she said. "The program is in a classroom setting, which prepares students for preschool or kindergarten. Over 400 families have been a part of this program this year alone. In seven years, the program has benefited thousands."
"Students who are a part of the PAT program are more ready for school than those who arenít a part of the program," continued Rowe. "It can be really scary to go to school normally, especially for children who have cultural differences."
However, it is not the amount of interest that made the district consider eliminating the program.
According to Dennis Bixler, an assistant superintendent for the district, the PAT program has been in the district for approximately 20 years, but was mostly funded through outside sources.
"For much of that time, the program was funded by grants and community donations," he said. "When grant funding ended, the district maintained the program from the K-8 instructional budget. The choice really came out of an issue of priority to meet all the needs for students in the district. We needed greater assistance for reading support."
Rowe stated that the PAT program offers something that the district desperately needs in other schools.
"A big thing that the district is always asking for is family involvement in the schools, and this gives us that," she said. "A board member said that it only costs $84,000 a year to run this program which is Ďa drop in the bucket.í We are totally preparing to throw out suggestions for funding, though the PTA is not ready to suggest paying for the program, so that less fortunate families can still participate."
On June 7, Bixler announced a positive outcome to the boardís decision.
"We do have some good news. One-time funds have been identified in the budget to continue to fund the program for one additional year, 2013-14," he said. "The governing board was very clear that we should find money to continue this program for 2013-2014."
However, Bixler does not believe that funds will be available past the next academic year.
"The reading program will also continue as planned, and no other programs will be impacted by the reallocation of funds," he said. "I have spoken to the lead teacher, who will look for grants and other forms of funding. Iím glad that the board gave us the task to find funding for this program, and that we were able to meet their request."
"To inform parents, a letter will be distributed to parents in the very near future," said Bixler.
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