So instead of four three-and-a-half-hour days, they go four school-length days," explained Candice Davies, director of LESA's early-childhood programs.
"It was definitely due to the expansion," Davies
Last school year, LESA
was funded for 199 Great Start slots.
This year's Great Start funding level was for 428 slots.
One Great Start slot equals one half-day program.
Through the calculation, Great Start
had about another 70 students this school year over last school year, Davies
further expanded Great Start
by partnering with two private preschools - Down on the Farm near Pinckney and Crossroads preschool near Howell - to provide the services.
The current state budget required up to 30 percent of Great Start allocations to be combined with private services.
The additional funding has all but eliminated the county's waiting list for Great Start programs, Davies
"That 4-year-old population that we've been able to target and reach to come forward and apply and get the interest and knowledge of a (Great Start) program out there, we placed those students where we've had 4-year-olds on waiting lists prior.
That's pretty huge," she
Parents often look the other way when Great Start
is suggested as an option, Davies
That's largely due to a stigma some parents associate with the often low-income children who take advantage of the program over private preschools, she said.
It's a challenge, and one that grew with the opening of new Great Start slots, Davies
sent out about 2,000 mailers announcing the new opportunities.
"The difference between us and a private center is that this is state and federally funded and were trying to reach the most at risk children.
In all reality you would hope the difference would be nothing," Davies
"I think that's part of getting the word out and what qualifies for how they can enroll in the program," she