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Barnstable, Wareham join state preschool grant program

Gov. Maura Healey greets students and staff at the Cape Cod YMCA in Barnstable on Wednesday, April 3, 2024.
Jennette Barnes
Gov. Maura Healey greets students and staff at the Cape Cod YMCA in Barnstable on Wednesday, April 3, 2024.

Governor Maura Healey visited the Cape Cod YMCA in Barnstable Wednesday to announce that the state is adding seven new school districts — including Barnstable and Wareham — to a program that provides grants for preschool education.

She said great education is happening in Barnstable, but like many other communities, it needs more resources to help children.

“The high cost of care is holding back both providers, and those who want to serve, as well as families,” she said. “We know that pre-kindergarten classrooms not only relieve child care costs, they also, importantly, set our young people up for success in life.”

In addition to adding communities to the program, called the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative, Healey announced a fresh round of grants for the 16 school districts now participating. The districts will receive a combined $3.4 million to support affordable, high-quality preschool.

Another Cape Cod district, Sandwich, is already part of the program. The town is receiving $250,000 to serve more students.

Barnstable school superintendent Sara Ahern said a team from her district will work with community partners to determine, by August, how best to serve more students and how many seats they can offer.

Barnstable is getting a planning grant, she said. Once they do that work, the district will be eligible for a second grant to implement it.

The grants fund preschool seats at various providers, including public schools, family child care, YMCAs, Head Start and other community-based programs.

Healey said the state is now supporting preschool access in 17 Gateway Cities and in rural communities as well. She has set a goal of creating universal preschool access for four-year-olds in all 26 Gateway Cities by the end of 2026.

State law defines Gateway Cities as those with a population between 35,000 and 250,000, median household income below the state average, and attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher at a rate below the state average.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.