Columbia County BOE awaits info on Pre-K issue

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April 24, 2007

EVANS, Ga.---Will the Pre-K program in Columbia County stay or will it go?

That's been the question for some time now, and the board still has to make that decision.

It has been a confusing issue. Some believe it was voted to dismiss the program in 2008, while others say it wasn't.

School board members spoke out tonight to make it clear.

"I truly felt, and I know a number of parents and teachers around the area felt that it had been scrapped," said parent Heather Holloway.

Heather has three children who will ultimately be affected by the Columbia County Pre-K program. She says that she's gotten a lot of misinformation about the future of the program, and she wants to make sure she's not in the dark when a final decision is made.

"I'm glad that they haven't made a decision to scrap it completely, and I hope they're open-minded to listen to all the concerns of all the parents out there," she said.

"Tonight they voted to table that before taking any kind of final action on it, so that we'll have more opportunity to really study what would be the ramifications if the board did completely get out of the Pre-K business," said Superintendent Dr. Tommy Price.

"A tentative vote gives us time to talk about things, to let the community have their input," school board chairman Regina Buccafusco said.

Price and Buccafusco both say that the vote two weeks ago to kill the program was only tentative. The members wanted to look into several factors and gain community input before making a final decision on the overall need for the program.

"I felt we didn't have enough information to make a good decision," Buccafusco said. "What sounded like a good decision, to just push the program into the private daycares entirely, two weeks ago--the more input you have--we're going to have to moderate that."

Buccafusco says more research needs to be done and that they are planning to bring in someone from the Georgia Board of Education to answer questions that will hopefully help guide them in making their decision.

"We need several answered questions," she said. "Can we keep the seats? Is their program equitable to our program? Is their education the same as this type of program? So all these questions really need to be answered."

"I think the board is looking for the full packet of information so that we don't act before we have a full picture that will help them make the best decision," Price said.

"And after tonight's meeting, I feel a little bit more sure that maybe they're going to take some time and consider and everything," Heather said.

The BOE has tabled the vote until at least the end of summer, when they plan to bring in that representative from the state BOE. At that time, they are planning to have an open forum for all parents and teachers to attend to hear all of the options they will have and for their input.

Public schools are not the only place where a student can attend a Pre-K program. Of the approximately 1600 Pre-K students in Columbia County, only 320 attend a program in public school. The others go to private Pre-K programs.

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