PORTLAND — The School Board is expected this week to endorse a plan that would rely on district resources and a community partner to provide universal pre-kindergarten education.

The initial goal would be to add two classrooms a year over a five-year period, which would create 140 new seats, according to a plan being presented by Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana.

In the first year the proposal would add 32 seats and $1.3 million to the overall school budget.

The district now spends approximately $800,000 on five pre-K classrooms, which houses only about 21 percent of the city’s 4-year-olds, according to Botana.

To house the first pre-K students, Botana said at least nine new classrooms would be required. Five would be added to the city’s elementary schools, while at least one community provider would be asked to add four more.

The Catherine Morrill Day Nursery School, Youth and Family Outreach and The Opportunity Alliance already partner with the School Department to provide three pre-K classrooms, Botana said.

The board was set to meet Tuesday, after The Forecaster’s deadline, to hold a first reading on the proposal, which would receive a final vote March 5.

While expanding to universal pre-K would add substantially to the operating budget, in a resolution passed in the fall the School Board said it’s necessary because it “creates a solid foundation upon which the rest of a child’s education can be built.”

Under the proposal, the School Department would continue to pay its own pre-K classroom teachers, but the community partner would be responsible for paying any additional educators it may need to hire.

Botana told the School Board what he’s looking for Tuesday is for members to “provide clear direction related to how we will expand the public pre-K program over the next five years so that staff can include appropriate costs in the upcoming budget and begin work to implement the expansion plan.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Reiche Elementary School on Portland’s West End already houses pre-K students and, under a plan to expand to universal pre-kindergarten, could see more.

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