WAVERLY — It is never too early to start learning — and thanks to a grant awarded by the state to the Waverly Central School District, classrooms will now be open to three-year-old students.

Waverly Superintendent Eric Knolles on Thursday confirmed that the district was the recent recipient of a state grant totaling approximately $350,000.

The grant will pay for up to two “pre-K 3” classes, meaning it will be for students that are three years old. The classes will be capped at 18 students each.

“What’s unusual about this grant is that we got the money up front — which is odd for the state,” Knolles said. “Usually, the way grants work is we have to wait a year to get that money from the state.”

Another caveat of the grant is the relatively small time the district had to implement it.

“We were notified that we won the grant on Dec. 19, and one of the stipulations in it is that we had to incorporate up to 90 school days with it, otherwise we wouldn’t get the money,” Knolles explained. “Obviously, in December, that doesn’t give us a whole lot of time, but our team — particularly (elementary principal) Colleen Hall and (director of curriculum) Elizabeth McIntosh worked very hard around this to get it off the ground.”

As a result, the district staff scrambled together to organize a sign-up day, and 24 children were signed up.

“I was a little worried about getting enough kids,” the superintendent noted. “I know there’s a need in the community for this type of thing, but with the short notice I wasn’t sure who could make it up. But we managed to get enough for one 18-student class with a six-student waiting list.”

Knolles explained that the application process for the grant was exceptionally competitive, as only about 20 districts across the state were awarded. However, the grant will recur next school year and more students — up to 36 — will have the chance to sign up.

Knolles added that the classes will serve as a great opportunity to begin to teach kids how to read at an earlier age while also adding up to five jobs at the district

“We have some ELA (English language arts) learners that would benefit from these services to start them reading earlier and learning how to interact in social settings,” he said. “We’re pretty excited about it. It’s a great opportunity to get to our youngest learners early.”

The class is tentatively scheduled to begin by the end of this month, said Knolles.

Johnny Williams can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 232 or jwilliams@morning-times.com. Follow Johnny Williams on Twitter @johnnywMT

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