LAWRENCE (KSNT) – Lawrence Public Schools are now offering free before-and-after school enrichment for preschool-aged children of USD 497 staff.

According to Superintendent Dr. Anthony Lewis, USD 497 will use federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to support free early childhood educational services and before-and-after school enrichment for the children of classified employees. These staff members would include paraeducators, instructional support staff, food service and custodial personnel and secretarial, clerical and technical services staff in the district.

This will go into effect on Sept. 6 and will provide early learning opportunities for children ages three to four. The new program will help support the recruitment and retention of classified staff to maintain operations and continuity of district services.

“Our community needs to look at more creative approaches like this to expand high-quality early childhood educational opportunities and recruit and retain employees,” said Lewis. “This should be a significant benefit to classified staff working in our schools. They will know that while they are at work, their young children will be building kindergarten readiness skills and receiving two nutritious meals in a safe and nurturing environment.”

A total of $955,000 in the district’s ESSSER III application was put forward to support two additional early childhood classrooms at Kennedy Early Childhood Center located at 1605 Davis Rd. These classrooms will serve the preschool-aged children of USD 497 classified staff from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. They will also provide enrichment before and after school from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.

The ESSER funds will also support staffing the program with two certified teachers, an enrichment coach and four instructional paraeducators. Curriculum and classroom furniture, supplies and materials will come with the program too as well as any facility modifications required for licensure.

These benefits will be offered to existing classified staff during the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years unless a permanent source of funding can be identified to continue the program.