Seminole Co. considers expanding pre-K to all elementary schools in 2013

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. —

School leaders in Seminole County are considering spending up hundreds of thousands of dollars to expand the county's pre-K program by putting one in every elementary school next year.

WFTV's Bianca Castro asked if it's necessary when the district is already strapped for cash.

Parents have little doubt their 4-year-olds in pre-K class will be ready for kindergarten next year.

"It gives them the extra learning that he needs before he gets to kindergarten," said parent Holly Ebert.

And to boost readiness across the board, district officials are launching an ambitious plan to offer a pre-K class at each of their 36 elementary schools next year.

"We will operate with the money that's generated. We just possibly needed a little start-up costs," said Marjorie Murray, director of VPK for Seminole County Public Schools.

But those start-up costs could be around $300,000, possibly more. All while the district is strapped for cash. It's cut 700 positions, and could even close down more schools.

One in seven children who are part of the pre-K program in the county goes to a public school for the program. The others go to the 150 or so private or church facilities in the area with pre-K. WFTV learned many of those are not at capacity. So WFTV asked whether now is the right time to expand.

"If we wait any longer for every child, we are in a catch-up mode. That means we have to invest in retention programs. We have to invest in enrichment programs, in intervention programs," said Murray.

But some don't buy it.

"If there are not a lot of kids waiting to get into these programs and the majority of these kids are getting in, then no, I don't feel that right now is the right time for it," said parent Amberlyn Hulett.

The state sets aside money to pay for every 4-year-old to attend pre-K, so districts only need to worry about start-up costs for new pre-K programs.