A grant proposal to expand the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District’s early education program, for general students and those with disabilities, was approved at the Oct. 1 board meeting.
While no amount was yet attached to the proposal, Jim Stolze, executive director of Student Services who presented the item, said a “robust” figure would be submitted to the California Department of Education, which is reviewing the grants for the Inclusive Early Education and Expansion Program (IEEEP) and disbursing the $167 million allocated in Assembly Bill 1808, aimed at increasing the number of children with disabilities in early education programs.
“We are putting in a robust proposal that we feel would meet our needs,” Stolze said. “We are going to shoot high.”
The grant application is due by Oct. 18, with award announcements from the California Department of Education (CDE) expected Nov. 12, according to the presentation.
“We are very hopeful,” Stolze said about the district receiving funds. “When you look at the large number of $167 million, it is a lot of money. We are hopeful that the state will look at the needs of smaller districts and the size of districts like ours and recognize that our needs are perhaps as important as the other bigger institutions.”
The reason a monetary figure was not yet attached to the proposal is because the grant requires a 33 percent match from the district, and Student Services and Business Services, the district’s financial department, were still working on the amount, Stolze said.
“We will be putting a number on it,” he said, “but we have not yet because we are still working that out with Business Services.”
Eric Vreeman, assistant superintendent of Business Services, explained the match could be an existing one.
“It can be the facilities that we use, as well as the staff,” Vreeman said. “It wouldn’t require new dollars from the district for that grant. It would be the current dollars that we put toward preschool.”
Besides the match requirement, the district also had to submit a letter of intent to apply to the CDE in June. The grant funding also specifically covers three areas: Facilities, renovated or new construction; adaptive equipment, indoors or outdoors; and professional development.
The Yucaipa-Calimesa school district is in a unique situation in that it already has an early education program for students with disabilities.
Jennifer Isaac, Special Education coordinator, outlined how the funds would be used if the district receives grant funding.
“We are already meeting the needs of our special education students who live within our district but we would like to expand that to meet the needs of some of our other students, the general education population,” Isaac said.
The district’s early education program for children with disabilities would expand to include general education students. A mix of 60 percent general education preschoolers and 40 percent special education children with about 16 students per class is proposed.
“The families of the general education students would be required to pay a daily rate that would be comparable to local rates,” Isaac said, adding the district cannot charge special education students for preschool. “We have looked at models like this. Etiwanda and Upland run really, really good programs that are kind of seen as the bench mark throughout the state.”
Benefits to the program, Isaac said, include general education students acting as peer models for special education students, for example, showing them appropriate behavior and how to speak. Preschool is beneficial to all children and the existing early education program includes some parenting instruction that would then be available to general education moms and dads. And finally, if parents become invested in the preschool program, then they are more likely to continue their child’s education in the district.
“We are really excited to see if we are eligible for this grant, if we would receive it. We are excited for what it could do for our district,” Isaac said.
Increase in facility fees
Also at the Oct. 1 meeting, the district adopted a new fee schedule for its facilities such as use of the Yucaipa High School gymnasium and multi-purpose room.
The reason for the increase is because the fees had not been updated since 2004, said Vreeman, who presented the item.
“This is actually something that we need to look at every year,” Vreeman said.
Board president Chuck Christie asked Vreeman about the increase.
“Essentially, we are talking about recouping costs for off-campus organizations,” Christie said.
“Right,” Vreeman said in reply. “The law is very clear we can only charge direct costs, so costs that actually exists. We cannot have arbitrary costs for facilities for our district.”