Crane School District is the recent recipient of four sizable grants from the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES), awarded last month to the district preschools housed by Gary A. Knox, H.L. Suverkrup, Ronald Reagan elementary schools and Valley Horizon Elementary elementary schools to absorb additional costs incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the amount of $7,000 (Ronald Reagan), $13,000 (H.L. Suverkrup), $13,000 (Gary A. Knox) and $19,700 (Valley Horizon), the Child Care COVID-19 grants are largely being used to pay staff, as the preschool program’s team expanded by three persons this year.

According to district preschool coordinator Marla Ford, the award amount was based on the number of children enrolled at each site and the sites’ capacity as prescribed in the license issued to each of them by the Arizona Department of Health Services’ licensing division; an extra $1,000 was included if the awarded schools were based in a rural area.

In a “normal” school year, 200 three- and four-year-old are enrolled in preschool programs across the district; this year, that number has been reduced to 100, with only four-year-olds allowed on site to mutually ensure health and safety and preparedness for kindergarten.

For three-year-olds, Ford said the preschools are offering online and paper-based resources to keep them engaged and prepare them to attend preschool next year.

“We’re trying to provide a few services for them, but it’s not the same as being in-person,” Ford said. “It was a hard decision to make) to only accept four-year-olds), but we’d rather have them have one quality year of preschool before they go into kindergarten.”

But just because the preschool program’s on-site services were cut in half, Ford said that in no way lessens the need for extra staff to cover all the bases when it comes to COVID-19 protocols.

“So we can have better coverage and keep up with the cleaning and the extra measures we have to take because of COVID,” said Ford. “We’ve reduced the number of kids in the classroom, but because of COVID we take their temperatures every day before they come in the classroom and ask the parents if they’ve had any symptoms (of the virus) and it just takes extra time, and it takes an extra person at each door to go through all of that.”

Per the provisions of the grant, the district is required to expend all of the awarded funds by Dec. 31.

“The grants are helping us keep our environment safer and cleaner and alleviate some of that financial burden off of us,” Ford said.

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