Springs Pre-K to Whitmore

The Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center may be losing East Hampton’s prekindergarten students next year, but it could be gaining the Springs School District’s youngest students.

During a Springs School Board meeting earlier this month, Debra Winter, the superintendent, proposed that the district’s 36 pre-K students expected next year move from their current program at the Most Holy Trinity school building in East Hampton to the Whitmore Center. SCOPE Educational Services currently operates the half-day pre-K program for Springs 

The Whitmore Center’s prekindergarten program, which will be able to accommodate 60 children in the fall, finds itself with an abundance of available slots for the 2018-19 school year because of East Hampton’s decision to move its 72 prekindergartners in-house to the John M. Marshall Elementary School in the fall, which is expected to save that district $300,000. The center plans to have three sections of prekindergarten and to expand what it calls its 3-K program for 3-year-olds in the 2018-19 school year.

For Springs, the move to the early childhood center will cost the district $162,200, which is $48,800 more than it pays SCOPE to operate its program this year. But there are benefits to parents and students that may outweigh the added costs, Ms. Winter said.

“The big difference is that parents will now have the option to go from a two-and-a-half-hour daily program to a four-hour day with lunch and two snacks provided.” For working parents, she said, that is a major plus, as is the fact that the early childhood center in East Hampton offers an extended day option for about $145 a week that allows students to stay through 5:30 p.m. That option was not available in the Most Holy Trinity building.

The additional $48,800 has been factored into the proposed 2018-19 budget, recently adopted by the board.

Although, ultimately, the pre-K move is contingent upon voter approval on May 15, Ms. Winter said the school will go ahead with a lottery drawing in order to fill the 36 spots, available to Springs residents with children who will turn 4 by Dec. 1.

“We cannot wait until May 15 to see whether we can go ahead or not,” she said. “We need to get started on this now and if the budget is voted down, then this is the sort of thing that will be the first to be cut.”