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Alcona, ESD team up for preschool program

July 27, 2012
Andrew Westrope - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

LINCOLN-Alcona Community Schools and Alpena Montmorency Alcona Educational School District officially announced their plans on Friday for Great Start Academy, a state-funded preschool program set to open at Alcona Elementary School in October.

Funded through block grants from the state of Michigan's Great Start Readiness Program to provide preschool programs for at-risk children, Great Start Academy will run half days, Monday through Friday, to serve up to 16 eligible four-year-olds at no additional cost to families or the school budget. Superintendent Shawn Thornton said a study team at the school started looking into the possibility of a preschool program last fall, then used model programs in other districts to develop a plan for what would work in collaboration with the Alcona Head Start program already in place. She hopes the result - a preschool that relies on family involvement and focuses on building children's socialization, literacy, number sense and independent skills - will be a long-term investment with lasting benefits for children and the community.

"I think that any opportunity the school can have to help our youngsters in our community prepare for a successful school career and the skills they will need to be successful as adults, at the earliest stage possible, is really an area where we can provide positive support and intervention ... and hopefully that will help to guarantee their success as they go throughout the public education system," Thornton said.

AMA ESD, as the recipient of state GSRP money, will fund and oversee the program and the school will facilitate it, and both will work together to hire an early childhood specialist to be the instructor. Thornton is confident the program will continue indefinitely as long as the state block grants are there to fund it.

"If funding of those particular grant sources was a question or reduced in the future, as a collaborative with the ESD, we would have to sit down and take a look at what that looked like," she said. "But the intention and the hope, certainly, is that we are able to start this year and continue it for years and years to come."

The school will release enrollment information in August, and GSRP requirements will dictate eligibility based on low income, special needs, behavior issues and other qualifying factors.

Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5693.



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