Fort Wayne Community Schools plans to use federal coronavirus relief dollars toward preschool play.
The board Monday unanimously approved acceptance of Build, Learn, Grow Stabilization grants from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.
These non-competitive grants are capped at $500,000 per licensed preschool program for the 2021-23 academic years and will be distributed statewide in three-month increments until the $540 million state allocation is exhausted, according to information provided to the board.
At FWCS, the dollars will support preschool programs at Abbett, Adams, Bloomingdale, Brentwood, Fairfield, Forest Park, Franke Park, Harrison Hill, Holland, Indian Village, Lindley, Maplewood, Northcrest, Scott, South Wayne, Study, Washington, Waynedale and Whitney Young.
It's unrealistic FWCS will receive the maximum $500,000 for each school, partly because of the number of programs statewide, Kimberly Brooks, Title I director, said. About 2,000 applied in the first round, and child care centers – not public schools – are the more typical applicant.
“There's not too many public schools that have licensed preschool programs like we do,” Brooks said.
The funding was established by the federal American Rescue Plan Act in March to support early childhood programs in response to the pandemic. Recipients can use the money toward uses including personnel costs, facilities, COVID-19 safety-related needs, and goods and services necessary to resume and strengthen operations.
FWCS plans to use the first round of payments for preschool playground renovations. Additional uses are restroom updates and mental health supports for students.
Board members were curious about such services available to preschoolers. Katie Ziegler, FWCS pre-K coordinator, said McMillen Health is developing a program for early childhood education addressing social emotional learning and mental health.
McMillen would bring the lessons to classrooms, Ziegler said, and children can learn “how to deal with those big feelings – that you know some of our 4-year-olds can have – in very appropriate ways.”