Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. is working to fill 100 open spots in a state-subsidized prekindergarten program this fall in a program targeted to benefit low-income families.

At least 200 to 250 applicants will be needed in order to find 100 families who qualify for the On My Way Pre-K program, said Erica Woodward, program manager for Bartholomew, Harrison, Floyd and Jackson counties.

The program has income limits and other requirements that will mean some families who are interested won’t qualify for the program, which funds the tuition cost for the children at one of the designated providers.

Woodward gave a summary of plans for the program Monday night to school board members, explaining the On My Way program allows preschoolers to have access to high-quality preschool programming the year before they start kindergarten.

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In Bartholomew County, eight providers, including BCSC, have been approved to offer the pre-K services. Enrollment will begin in March for the fall session.

Bartholomew County was among 15 counties named last June to receive state funding for the program designed to expand options for families that would otherwise struggle to pay for prekindergarten on their own.

The program began locally in January, with 50 spots open for students, Woodward said. However, only 33 students met the qualifications and were approved, with 18 of those students attending a BCSC prekindergarten offering, she said.

That’s because some of that set of applicants may not meet requirements and others may not follow up on the application process, said Shane Yates, BCSC prekindergarten director.

BCSC offers its prekindergarten program at Busy Bees Academy and Taylorsville Elementary School, a location recently added to the provider list, Yates said. Families who choose BCSC as their provider receive transportation services as part of their enrollment.

To qualify, a child must be 4 years old by Aug. 1 and a family’s income must fall within federal poverty guidelines. Parents or guardians must also be employed or in school, according to rules and regulations mandated by the state.

The program is supervised by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

Supervisors there have attempted to make improvements to enrollment by providing project managers with state-issued cell phones in an attempt to contact families who apply for the program, said Beth Barrett, program manager with the FSSA.

“We’re trying to find ways to get them to come to appointments,” Barrett said.

In November 2014, local voters rejected a referendum to pay for pre-K funding for a second time that asked taxpayers to pay $1.8 million annually for seven years through a property tax increase of 5 cents per $100 assessed valuation. At the time, BCSC officials had hoped to provide scholarships to an estimated 450 low-income 4-year-olds.

Developing academic and social skills among the preschoolers is important, said Robert Abrams, a BCSC school board member who heard the presentation.

“The most obvious benefit is getting kids ready to start participating in an organized education so that they’re ready for kindergarten,” Abrams said. “Social skills is a big part of it and equally important.”

Abrams was concerned that some families were having difficulty in qualifying for the program for various reasons.

“That’s a bit of a concern to me, but those are the rules of the game,” he said.

Yates said he had reached out to 50 families who pay a reduced rate for their children to attend prekindergarten classes, encouraging them to apply for the On My Way Pre-K program for the first registration. All of those families had applied, but some were not accepted, he said.

Families who apply for the On My Way program may choose which program out of the eight where their child will attend, Yates said. The cost savings to families accepted in the program amounts to $1,800, Yates said.

How to sign up

Paper applications for On My Way Pre-K will be accepted next month at eight providers in Bartholomew County:

  • Busy Bees Academy, R.L. Johnson Early Education Center, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., 1209 Sycamore St.
  • Children Inc., 715 McClure Road
  • First Presbyterian Preschool, 512 Seventh St.
  • KinderCare, 3625 Central Ave.
  • Nana’s Little Angels, 2104 Seventh St.
  • Learn by Heart, 18107 E. County Road 350S, Grammer
  • Deb’s Day Care and Preschool, 5403 W. Quan Wae Drive
  • Taylorsville Elementary School, 9711 Walnut St., Taylorsville

Online applications can also be filed at onmywayprek.org. For more information, call the Busy Bees Academy at 812-376-4569.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com