The preschool program operated by Nettle Creek Schools will be able to offer grants to help families of 4-year-olds pay for it.

Nettle Creek Discovery Preschool and Daycare has been certified as a Level 3 provider by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. That means it is sufficiently staffed and meets certain program quality standards. There are four certification levels and programs cannot offer grants until they are Level 3.

“We are excited because this provides us the opportunity to get scholarships for 4-year-olds,” said Elizabeth Bryant, the school corporation’s director of learning. “This represents a lot of work by the staff.”

Superintendent Emily Schaeffer said the programs are making a difference. Children who have attended the preschool before entering kindergarten are scoring higher and doing better, on average, than others, she said.

“That speaks to the phenomenal job that (lead day care instructor) Tabitha Robinson does,” she told the school board.

Nettle Creek used grant money to help pay preschool program startup costs. Grant funds have expired. As a result, the preschool and day care program’s weekly cost will increase to $100 per child starting next fall. It has been $60 a week.

Schaeffer said the cost is less than what others are charging in Wayne County. She said the average weekly cost for preschool is $310 and, for daycare, $185. 

Two forms of assistance will be available to help people pay for Nettle Creek’s program, she said.

“We are able to now offer families assistance for CCDF vouchers and On My Way Pre-K funding,” she said.

CCDF is the federal Child Care and Development Fund, which helps working parents pay for child care. On My Way Pre-K pays for 4-year-olds to attend qualified preschools.

Bryant said families will be asked to fill out applications for assistance when they enroll children in the program.

Schaeffer noted that Reid Health has agreed to provide $5,000 to assist families with 5-year-old children with paying to be in the daycare program. They are not eligible for the after-school program provided by the Boys and Girls Club.

Reid Health also has provided $1,000 to buy equipment for cardio drumming, a new physical education program being offered at Hagerstown Elementary School by Rachel Klein.

Schaeffer also spoke to the board about the level of illnesses in Nettle Creek school buildings. A nearby district, Western Wayne, kept students out of school for two days after high levels of student and staff illness.

She told the board that if 20% of students are absent because of illness, she would need to consult with the Wayne County Health Department and Indiana Department of Education about options. So far, that had not been necessary. “If we get to 20% (out), then we will have to have considerations by the administration,” she said.

Additionally, “If we get to where we have a lot of staff out, we would have to have a few days out” of school, she said.

The board approved the following personnel actions.

  • Noncertified staff hirings: Rachel Mull, on-call substitute teacher; Brandi Farmer, Hagerstown Jr.-Sr. High School instructional aide; Tammy Andis, HES instructional aide.
  • Departures: Allison Ullery, HJSHS instructional aide; Chris Oliger, girls basketball varsity coach.
  • Extra-curricular changes: Madilyn Coomes, junior high girls track coach.
  • IREAD 3 tutors: Amy Dickerson and Brynden Alvey.

The board’s next regular meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, in the Hagerstown Elementary School LGI room, 299 N. Sycamore St. The public may attend.

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A version of this article appeared in the February 21 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.