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UNIVERSAL SCHOOL READINESS PROGRAM STUDY COMPLETED FOR DOWNTOWN ALLENTOWN NEIGHBORHOOD

The Lehigh Valley’s leading economic and research expert, Dr. Kamran Afshar, has concluded a study for Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley on the design of a program model that would provide every child living in the Allentown Promise Neighborhood with access to one year of high quality pre-school before they enter kindergarten.

Allentown Promise Neighborhood is located in a nine-square-block area of the Old Allentown Historic District. The goal of the study is to help determine the need for and interest in having a high quality pre-school center located in the APN. It is based on the well-documented fact that just one year of pre-K education significantly improves children’s performance in school.

This is accomplished by the highly-trained professional staff that helps prepare children to enter kindergarten by teaching them the basic skills needed to enter school ready to learn. For children growing up in economically distressed neighborhoods, access to these experiences can be the difference between success and failure in their lives as students.

Feedback from focus groups of parents living in Allentown Promise Neighborhood, members of the Allentown Promise Neighborhood Early Learning Network, and other community stakeholders was gathered as a part of the program’s design process. These focus groups were conducted by Dr. Afshar at various locations around the Lehigh Valley and at the Promise Neighborhoods office.

The study’s results yielded a two-model design:

  1. The first for a single point of service that is centrally located in the neighborhood and can accommodate multiple classrooms.
  2. The second, for multiple points of service such as setting up several one-room classrooms across the neighborhood within easy walking distance for parents and children.

Findings from the study’s summary include:

  • The study estimates that there are approximately 325 children between the ages of 0 and 4 living in the APN in 2013.
  • A classroom of at least 1,400 square feet is recommended with no more than 20 students and a certified lead teacher with a certified assistant teacher.
  • Pre-K classes would operate five days a week, Monday through Friday for five hours a day.
  • Ten potential locations in and around the APN were considered and visited. Two locations were selected that met the requirements for the facility and were used to develop a realistic cost calculation.
  • A simulation study was conducted for each location using a three-year timeline to see how costs would expand when going from one to three classrooms.
  • Costs considered included everything from teacher salaries and benefits, materials and consumables, technology, office expenses, utilities and other items.
  • Based on Afshar’s models, it is estimated that a high quality pre-K education facility in the APN would cost between $5,700 and $6,300 per child, per year.
  • A single point of service location would cost between $113,000 and $115,000 to operate annually.

“Dr. Afshar’s study verifies that quality early childhood education pays in the long run, and, if coordinated on a neighborhood level could be provided with quality and value,” said Ed Meehan, Board Chairman for PNLV. “There would also be a multiplier effect when combined with other community supports in a collective fashion as per the Promise Neighborhood approach. PNLV’s vision is that every family in the APN would have the opportunity for their preschoolers to have access to quality early childhood education. This study provides useful information and suggests further conversation.”

The research and program design was funded by a grant from The Century Fund, which also supports the activities of the Promise Neighborhoods Early Learning Network.

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