Even little people deserve access to scholarships | ParkRecord.com

Even little people deserve access to scholarships

Jason Strykowski, of the Record staff

Now, even a four-year-old can receive a scholarship, but parents will have to apply.

This year, the Park City School District, with funding from the United Way, will begin to offer partial scholarships to lessen the cost of optional preschool for Park City children. Although the preschool program is five years old, this marks the first time that tuition assistance has been made available.

Preschool education is part of a larger program designed to give younger children an opportunity to begin learning before they start kindergarten or first grade. Currently, the Park City School District supports three different classifications of students who attend preschool: Community Education, Headstart and Special Education. Headstart students are federally funded, but Community Education students did not previously receive outside funds.

On average, preschool costs students about $2,000 for the school year. The district offers a morning and an afternoon program. The morning program includes breakfast and runs for 3-and-a-half hours per day at a cost of $250 per month. The afternoon program goes for 2-and-a-half hours per day for $195 each month. According to Judy Tukuafu, Director of Community Education for the Park City School District, this cost can be substantial for some of Park City’s citizens. "I think a lot of times, people that are working their income is stretched and they have a hard time affording these programs," she said.

Tukuafu applied for the grant several months ago when Judy Sobin of the United Way alerted her to the possibility. For their part, the United Way made the money available after the conducted a community assessment in Park City. All the same, Tukuafu still had to go through the grant application hoops to land the money. The wait finally paid off this past week. Fortunately, the money comes with relatively few strings attached and the United Way asks mostly for data and reports in exchange for the money.

Each year for the next three, the United Way will provide the Park City School District with $9,000 specifically designated for preschool. The annual cost to Park City parents to send their kids to preschool borders on $51,000, making that yearly grant a substantial percentage. The program is not included in state-required curriculum, so it does not receive tax revenue and is consequently dependant on these funds from parents.

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To effectively ration this funding, Tukuafu decided to offer the money evenly for 12 preschool students. The program enrolls a total of 24 and eligibility will be determined upon the financial need of each family. This may leave some families without funding, but Tukuafu hopes that only parents in need of the money will apply for it, while others might refrain if they are not in great need.

Interested families should contact Judy Tukuafu immediately at (435) 645-5600 and be prepared to show evidence of financial need upon request.

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