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The Fremont Public Schools Board of Education approved a plan to add preschool classes to the Howard and Clarmar Elementary School buildings next year.

Prior to the approval, which came unanimously during Monday night’s monthly Board of Education meeting, Howard and Clarmar were the only two elementary school buildings in the district without any preschool or early childhood offerings, according to FPS Director of Student Services and Business Affairs Brad Dahl.

During the past few years, the district has been moving away from its “center-based program” of predominantly housing its early childhood program at the Davenport School, as it has moved preschool classes into the elementary school buildings. Several years ago, the Nebraska Department of Education asked the district to “be more inclusive” with its early childhood program, which was originally designed to focus on children with verified disabilities.

“We only had two to three peer models oftentimes in the classroom with 10, 11 and 12 students with a verified disability,” Dahl said. “(The Department of Education) wanted to see a more even mix.”

The district believes that by moving toward a “site-based” program, where each elementary school has its own preschool program, the FPS early childhood program will bring in a more diverse group of students.

Some neighboring districts have provided universal preschool, said Kevin Eairleywine, executive director of human resources and elementary operations. He added that he believes the new model will help FPS compete with those districts.

“This is going to help us keep some of our school-aged families from leaving and going to other districts because we’ll have something to offer here,” Eairleywine said.

Additionally, there are educational benefits to housing preschools in the same buildings where kids will ultimately attend grade school.

“The transition from preschool to kindergarten is so helpful when those kids are in the same building,” Eairleywine said.

On the educational side, the new classrooms come at no additional cost to the district. The classes are simply being moved over from the Davenport Center to Howard and Clarmar. However, the board also approved a payment of $42,363.15 for new preschool-appropriate playground equipment at the two sites.

In other news from Monday’s meeting:

*Fremont Public Schools has hired Kevin Kavan as the Coordinator of District Security, a new position.

*The board approved a $12,975 cabling project, which would create a new cable closet in the high school office area to address “cabling issues and office changes.”

*The board approved a partnership between the Fremont Area United Way and its Sixpence program, offering the Sixpence program space within an incoming community engagement center being built by United Way at 445 E. First Street. The estimated lease amount will be $600 to $700.

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