Grant will help add, expand prekindergarten programs in North Adams

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NORTH ADAMS — The city's prekindergarten offerings are about to expand.

North Adams Public Schools announced Wednesday that, with new grant funding in hand, it will launch a full-day prekindergarten program for 3- and 4-year-olds at Brayton Elementary School and collaborate to expand an existing program at Child Care of the Berkshires at Monument Square.

The services will be available thanks to a $285,549 grant to the city from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care.

North Adams Public Schools and Child Care of the Berkshires already have prekindergarten offerings, but officials hope these new, free-of-charge offerings will reel in an additional 30 students.

To North Adams Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Malkas, investing in early childhood education "just makes sense," because that is when interventions in education have the most value.

"When children are coming into schools with a pre-existing achievement gap, that gap becomes persistent over the course of their education," she said. "An investment in pre-K education, where you have that opportunity to close that gap, ensures that you are setting those students up to be more successful as you enter into their K-through-12 education."

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The new and expanded programs are in addition to the existing prekindergarten options at North Adams Public Schools, Head Start, and Child Care of the Berkshires in North Adams. And while 30 additional students enrolled in prekindergarten programs might seem like a relatively small number, Malkas said, it's "a huge opportunity" in a small city like North Adams.

City officials learned in January that they had won the grant, for which they had hurried to apply before the December deadline. Details have only been released this week.

Though open to 3-year-olds, the programs primarily target 4-year-olds in North Adams who will be entering kindergarten next year and are not currently in a prekindergarten program. North Adams was one of only six cities and towns to win the funding through the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative. The others were Boston, Springfield, Lowell, New Bedford and Sommerville.

City officials anticipate that the funding will be renewed next year.

"I don't expect that we would not see this being supported from the state level," Malkas said.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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