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Akron Public Schools to offer full-day preschool starting fall 2024

Akron Public Schools headquarters in Downtown Akron.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Akron Public Schools headquarters in Downtown Akron.

Akron Public Schools Superintendent Michael Robinson says the district is moving to offer all-day prekindergarten beginning in fall 2024, with enrollment beginning this week.

However the immediate impact on the budget remains unclear. The district currently only offers a half day of prekindergarten programming. The Akron Board of Education has not approved any funding. Angela Carter, chief of staff for Robinson, said on Tuesday that the district is seeking grants to fund the expansion. She said emails will go out soon for parents to sign up for full-day preschool, which will then determine how many classrooms the district might need to open.

The district's current offerings cost $6.5 million a year, with about $2 million coming from unspecified "grant funding," spokesperson Mark Williamson said.

Carter said Robinson is hoping to attract families back to the district, which has seen years of enrollment decline, with the expanded preschool offering. She added research backs up that these programs help prepare students to perform well in school.

"It helps with developing students cognitively," she said. "And most importantly, it gives students a boost when it comes to math and literacy skills."

Robinson announced the change during a discussion about the district’s redistricting proposal at Tuesday's board of education meeting.

During that meeting, the board held off on a final reading of the redistricting proposal because the district’s administration added several changes to it. Chiefly, Robinson asked the board to consider keeping two buildings – Stewart and Essex elementary schools – open in case demand for space for prekindergarten programming is high enough.

Board Member Rene Molenaur noted the board had already voted to close those buildings last year in a bid to save money.

“We’re not going to do what we voted to do?” Molenaur said.

Robinson responded that the board could still choose to close the buildings, which are being used for prekindergarten and kindergarten space currently, but that might limit how many seats the district could offer.

The district has previously said it will need to cut $15 million in the coming year in order to keep a looming deficit under control while it considers a potential levy.

The cost of tuition for the current half-day preschool offering is based on a sliding fee scale, with most families paying less than $75 a month, spokesperson Mark Williamson said. There is no charge for families with children with disabilities, Carter said.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.