GV schools may get more funding | TheUnion.com

GV schools may get more funding

Grass Valley schools are eligible for state funds to prepare children for kindergarten because enough of their students use MediCal and free or reduced lunch programs.

Previously, only schools with low scores on state assessment tests were eligible for money from the state’s Children & Families First Commission, which was formed when Proposition 10 passed in 1998. The commission’s work is financed by a 50 cent-per-package tax on tobacco products.

“Well, Nevada County doesn’t have any district with low test scores,” noted Jon Byerrum, superintendent of the Grass Valley School District.

But it has enough students whose parents have low education levels, as well as students learning English, he said.

In January 2001, Gov. Gray Davis established a School Readiness Task Force to develop a comprehensive program to better prepare children to enter school.

A committee of Grass Valley educators and social workers plans to begin meeting next month to create a plan to reach children under 5 years old, Byerrum said.

“Kids aren’t born at 5 years old,” Byerrum said. “They need interaction with schools earlier.”

The Grass Valley School District “really stood out in each of these factors” that expanded counties’ eligibility, said Jean Soliz, executive director of Nevada County’s Children & Families First Commission.

“There was one place in western Nevada County that has a higher level of poverty: North San Juan,” Soliz said. But North San Juan does not have the ethnicity issues and thus did not rank as high, Soliz said.

About 10 percent of children under 6 in western Nevada County are Latino now, and new immigrants, Soliz said.

Truckee Elementary School is also eligible and has a committee to prepare a similar plan.

The Grass Valley committee plans to submit a proposed program and apply for the money by Dec. 15, and may receive the funds by February, Byerrum said.

“What we’re aiming at is kids before they get to the school,” Soliz said. “A lot of counties are doing this already.”

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