The Bethlehem Central School District is seeking a partnership with one or more community-based organizations to provide a Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) program for up to 89 four-year-olds within the district. The district is soliciting proposals from qualified providers in a Request for Proposals (RFP) that was issued this week.
This is the second year the district has been eligible for funding from New York State to provide an instructional program for four-year-olds. The district could receive up to $480,000 to support a UPK program in 2022-23 if the district is able to contract with a qualified community provider that meets the early childhood education requirements for the pre-kindergarten program.
Due to space constraints, the district is not able to provide a UPK program in its school buildings. New York State allows districts to use the UPK funds to contract with outside providers to offer a UPK program within the boundaries of the district.
“We are pleased that this funding continues to be available in the budget, but we do not have the space to house a Universal Pre-Kindergarten program, especially with the uncertainties of the continuing COVID pandemic,” said Superintendent Jody Monroe. “So we must look at our best option, which is partnering with an organization that can meet the qualifications set forth by the state for a quality instructional program for four-year-olds.”
Superintendent Monroe said last year, the UPK funding came as a surprise in the state budget. When the district issued an RFP last summer, there were only three providers who responded to that request. None were able to meet the criteria the state has in place for providing Universal Pre-K. This year, Monroe said with providers having more time to plan, she is a little more optimistic.
“Though the 2021 RFP process did not yield a viable partner, we were able to provide those organizations who applied with constructive feedback on how to improve their plans,” said Monroe. “This year, the RFP was sent directly to five providers who had expressed interest in providing UPK. It is also available for others on our website.”
Monroe said if a UPK program is established through a partnership in the district, enrollment would be by lottery.
Interested early childhood education providers within the Bethlehem Central School District have until Thursday, March at 3 p.m. to submit a proposal to the district.
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