‘The aim is to remove barriers’

Lawrence Township Public Schools receives state grant to expand Cardinal Kids program

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The Lawrence Township Public Schools is poised to expand its free preschool program, thanks to a $923,486 grant from the New Jersey Department of Education.

The preschool program serves both typically developing and special needs children. The three- and four-year-old children are placed in the program through an application and lottery system.

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The initiative to expand the free preschool program, which currently enrolls 47 general education students, is part of school district officials’ mission to ensure the success of all Lawrence Township children.

“The aim is to remove barriers and provide equal opportunities for families,” said Superintendent of Schools Robyn Klim.

With the state grant in hand, the district is opening its first new class on Feb. 20. It will expand the existing “Cardinal Kids” program to become a full-day, five-days-per-week preschool program. It is located at Lawrence High School.

Expanding the Cardinal Kids program, which serves three- and four-year-old children, will allow more Lawrence High School students to enroll in the district’s “Early Childhood Growth and Development” course and gain hands-on experience, school district officials said.

A second preschool class is anticipated to open after the spring break at one of the four elementary schools. The expanded preschool program is expected to enroll up to 71 general education students by the end of the current school year. An additional 45 spots will open in September for the 2024-25 school year.

More classrooms will be needed as the preschool program expands over the next several years. Nearly 500 children are expected to be enrolled in the expanded preschool program by its fifth year of operation, officials said.

State funding for the preschool program is tied to the number of projected students for enrollment each year as the program is rolled out and expanded, officials said.

The expanded enrollment means more classrooms will be needed. School district officials said they are mapping out the space and will have to consider how things will look over a five-year period.

Klim said she is especially excited about the long-term impact of the preschool expansion on the Cardinal Kids program at Lawrence High School.

“It means the oldest students and the youngest students will learn and grow from each other,” she said.

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