By SEAN ROWLEY
A group of parents of children eligible to take prekindergarten classes at Tahlequah Public Schools have expressed concern after their children were turned away from enrollment.
Superintendent Lisa Presley said the I-35 District does its best to anticipate and accommodate the need for pre-K classes, which are offered at Sequoyah Elementary on South College Avenue. Only pre-K classes are held there.
“We have eight sections of pre-K – the same number we had last year,” Presley said. “We have placed seven in-district children on a waiting list.”
Some parents point out the irony in that a tax increase was recently approved by voters to alleviate crowding in the TPS system, but now, pre-K classes are deemed full.
Presley said the tax and pre-K are unrelated. It is not compulsory to offer pre-K, and if it’s available, a class or section cannot exceed 20 students.
“We did pass a tax to build [Heritage] elementary school and it has helped with overcrowding,” she said.“But the size of pre-K sections is always limited.”
The waiting list of just seven students puts the district in a difficult situation, Presley said.
“We just couldn’t hire a teacher to teach seven students,” she said. “We would also need to hire another aide. It just wouldn’t be fiscally prudent. Furthermore, if we did come close to filling a class, it would be difficult to hire a teacher in the late summer. Most teachers have their jobs by then.”
Presley said the classes reached capacity in the weeks after an initial enrollment period.
“Our eight sections pretty much filled up during early enrollment in April,” she said.
Those unable to enroll their children in pre-K with TPS do have options.
“First, if they live in the our district, they need to get on our waiting list,” Presley said. “We will contact them if anything comes open – if a family moves away. We also have Head Start programs in the area that accept ages 3 and 4, offered by the Cherokee Nation and Ki Bois [Community Action Partnership].”
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