Toms River: Preschool Expansion Grant Would Cost District Money

Photo courtesy Toms River Regional School District

TOMS RIVER – The Toms River School District declined to apply for a preschool expansion grant, stating it would cost additional money in the long run.

Several local districts applied for the grant, and received it. As a result, they expanded their preschool programs to have more full-day classes.

At a recent Board of Education meeting, board members declined to pursue the grant.

Currently, Toms River has some full-day preschool handicapped programs, and nine half-day preschool handicapped programs, business administrator William Doering said. If the district won the grant, the part time programs would become full time.

Each program would require teachers and paraprofessionals, which would cost an estimated $300,000-$400,000 a year, he said.

Additionally, the state is providing $12,500 per child, and Doering said the district would be paying $2,500 extra per child that the state isn’t covering. If 1,000 preschool students are eligible, it would cost the district $2.5 million. This is against the backdrop of a loss in state aid for the next six years.

Therefore, despite Toms River having a relatively low cost per pupil ratio, they decided against pursuing the grant, he said.

Other districts had received the grants.

Brick received a $690,965 Preschool Expansion Grant that would expand the number of general education children who could attend full-day preschool in an integrated classroom with special education students.

For every 10 general education students in the full-day program, there would be five special needs students, explained Superintendent Gerard Dalton.

Three new full-day preschool classes would be started in January 2019, and the plan calls for 16 full-day preschool classes for the 2019-2020 school year. Classes would be capped at 15 students.

According to the State Department of Education, the grant requires one certified teacher and an assistant for each class of 15 children.

The Berkeley Township School District received a $2.2 million grant for the same purposes. The classes are being taught in existing classrooms, officials said.

-Judy Smestad-Nunn contributed to this story