A Decatur City Schools proposal would allow it to place pre-kindergarten students who are in state-funded programs into the school zone where they reside, Superintendent Michael Douglas said.
The current placement method puts too many pre-K students in schools where they will not attend kindergarten, he said.
The proposed policy change was introduced during Tuesday’s board meeting.
“We’re going to continue to select students through random drawing,” Douglas said. “But what we want with the change is to keep students in the feeder patterns where they will attend elementary, middle and high school.”
Decatur — like most school systems in the state — has two types of pre-K units. One type is funded with federal Title 1 monies in schools with high poverty levels. The others are funded by the Office of School Readiness, which runs the state’s voluntary pre-K program.
Dwight Satterfield, DCS deputy superintendent of school safety and student services, said the change will not affect Title 1 pre-K units, which are located at Austinville Elementary, Banks-Caddell, Frances Nungester, Oak Park Elementary, Woodmeade and West Decatur.
Douglas said about half of the 270 children receiving pre-K services in DCS are at schools that are not in their feeder pattern.
“We can fix this, but it requires a policy change,” he said.
In a related matter, the superintendent said this week that DCS plans to apply for three additional state-paid pre-K units that will be at Austinville, Oak Park and Frances Nungester.
Decatur had 97 students who requested pre-K service this year, but did not receive it.
“We all know how important pre-K is, so having one on a waiting list is one too many,” Douglas said.
In 2018, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health and UAB School of Education conducted a study that identified the differences between students who receive pre-K and those who don’t.
Researchers tracked approximately 39,000 students in state-paid pre-K classrooms from 2009 to 2014 and examined their performance on the ACT Aspire, an assessment the state used to determine how students were performing between 2014-17.
Compared to the other 567,000 students without pre-K service, students in pre-K were 1.6 percent more likely to be proficient in reading and 3.2 percent more likely to be proficient in math.
The benefits of pre-K showed in every grade level, race and ethnic group.
About six years ago, the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce rolled out an initiative to make pre-K available for every 4-year-old in Morgan County.
The program — called Starting Strong Morgan County Pre-K Initiative — helped double the number of pre-K units in Morgan County, but more than 120 students are on waiting lists in Decatur, Morgan County and Hartselle City.