Vicksburg Warren School District expanding Pre-K program with $3.3 million grant

Published 2:58 pm Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Vicksburg Warren School District (VWSD) will be receiving $3.3 million for the next three years from a grant by the Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) to help fund its preschool program.

The money is part of an over $15 million grant that SBE is distributing to 11 selected Mississippi school districts in the newly developed State Invested Pre-K programs.

“This grant will help us by providing much-needed resources for equipment and professional development that will support our ongoing growth,” said Christi Kilroy, Director of Communications and Media Specialist for VWSD.

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VWSD’s current Pre-K program has been funded almost entirely by local income. Without state funding, the district has been forced to send rejection letters to parents whose children qualify for the Pre-K program due to its limited capacity.

The most critical impact of the grant for VWSD is that the district will now have the funds to meet the demand for Pre-K in Warren County, according to Kilroy. This means that qualified students will no longer have their applications rejected due to the limited number of spots available.

“We currently have 15 general education Pre-K classrooms and two special education Pre-K classrooms,” Kilroy said. “The district’s goal has been to not turn any family away who wants their child enrolled in Pre-K.”

VWSD will use the new funds to cover the costs of 11 teachers, 11 assistants and one administrative manager, as well as supplies and updated equipment. Since 2015, the number of Pre-K classrooms in the district has risen from five to 17.

The district applied for the grant in July. SBE chose which districts would receive the grant money based on their need and ability to deliver the education supported by the grant.

SBE considered a number of factors when choosing the 11 districts. Higher priority was given to districts meeting certain criteria; for example, having a higher percentage of students in an underserved special population (based on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability status, etc.), and having a Kindergarten Readiness Rate that meets or is higher than the state average.

“Based on research, MDE predicts that students who score at or above a 498 on the MS Kindergarten Readiness Assessment at the end of Pre-K year are reading ready and will be successful in passing their third-grade reading assessment,” Kilroy said. “The average score in the VWSD on this test for Pre-K in 2022 was 556.”

A team of VWSD officials worked to create and submit the grant request, including Dr. Phatasis O’Harroll, Curriculum Director; Dr. Falanda Addiston-Ross, Special Education Director; Cassandra Lewis, Director of Finance and other key administrators.

Kilroy also expressed the district’s gratitude to Sen. Briggs Hopson.

“(He) worked diligently in the State Legislature and with MDE to ensure that the parameters of the grant were written to support the intent of the funding,” she said. “We appreciate his hard work and dedication to quality education for all students and specifically in this case, for Pre-K students in Mississippi.”

Parents who are interested in enrolling their child in the VWSD Pre-K program can get more information and an application at vwsd.org/pre-k.