Federal grant adds more preschool slots

TORRINGTON, Conn. (WTNH)– Hamden, East Haven, Derby, and Naugatuck are among the 14 communities that will have more preschool slots next year.

Those communities are described as high-need communities in the effort to eventually achieve universal pre-K in the state. The others are Bridgeport, Griswold, Groton, Hebron, Killingly, Manchester, Seymour, Vernon, Wolcott, and Torrington.

Governor Malloy spent some time sponge-painting Friday with the kids at the Torrington Child Care Center, but he wasn’t the only adult in this child’s play. There were also two United States Senators and one member of the U.S. House of Representatives. They were there because after failing in the past, the state has now finally succeeded in getting a grant from Uncle Sam to further expand preschool. Preschool programs are seen as the best way to combat the state’s achievement gap as those with longtime experience, like Mary Cecchinato who has been in the field for 29 years, can attest.

“From birth to age five, children’s minds are like sponges; they take everything in and it’s the best time to really start working with them, getting them to socialize and play with each other, and just learn basic skills,” said Cecchinato, Torrington Child Care Center.

The added spots go to kids from families who otherwise could not afford it, but Cecchinato says it’s still not enough to cover everyone.

“I would say probably at least another 40 to 50 more slots so all children would have preschool experience,” said Cecchinato.

“We are taking gigantic steps to making sure no child is denied an opportunity for an early childhood learning experience in our state because of their parents’ financial circumstances,” said Governor Malloy.

Under this program, a couple making less than about $65,000 a year with one child would qualify.

The state was already planning to add 1,000 preschool slots next year. This grant will add an additional 700 statewide.

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