G-A seeks grant for Pre-K Counts

Shawn Hardy

Officials in the Greencastle-Antrim School District hope to receive a grant to help heed a countywide call to action to help young learners.

The district should know next month whether its Pre-K Counts grant application for a little over $300,000 has been approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

At Thursday's school board meeting, Dr. Annette Searfoss, executive director of Franklin County Head Start, talked about Pre-K Counts. It is one component of a unified approach being sought by Head Start, Franklin County Human Services, Franklin County commissioners, school superintendents and dozens of other social service providers.

Five school districts, one county and a lot of independent operations are beginning to come together for shared goals, according to Searfoss, who said there is "potential to change the story for so many children."

Their objective is not only to get young learners and their families off to a good start, but to make a long-term positive difference in the county.

Searfoss noted that Commissioner Bob Thomas believes programs and support offered by Franklin County’s Families Forever Coalition can eventually reduce the 78 percent of the county budget devoted to crimes and court.

In G-A 

One aim of the coalition is to help children most at-risk of entering school without the proper skills and knowledge, as well as their families.

Head Start is one avenue, but most G-A families earn too much to qualify. Head Start is open to families at 100 percent of the poverty level or less. Based on 2015 data, 499 families in Chambersburg fall under the income limit, 209 in Waynesboro and just 14 in G-A, Searfoss said.

However, the income level for Pre-K Counts is 300 percent of the poverty level, which would make 60 percent of the children in G-A eligible.

The district already does a lot with early learning and has been more than willing to get involved in Pre-K Counts, Searfoss said.

The district's participation does hinge on getting a grant from the state, according to Dr. Bob Crider, chief educational officer.

If the money is received, Head Start would provide teachers, the educational program, transportation and other logistics for 36 students.