Funding drive hopes to save Brunswick pre-K program

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BRUNSWICK — The community is rallying to raise $20,000 to save Cub Camp, a summer academic intervention program for incoming kindergarten students.

The schools launched the five-week program last summer, but lacks the grant funding to continue.

Blending elements of the classroom and summer camp, Cub Camp eases classroom entry for 4- and 5-year-olds who show early signs of academic or behavioral needs.

“This is the best piece of preventative programming (at Coffin) and to let it go would be unconscionable,” Willo Wright, the volunteer leading the charge, said last week.

Wild Oats Bakery, in the Tontine Mall, will run a coffee-card fundraiser for the entire month of May. Costumers can buy a punch card for $25 – redeemable for 12 cups of coffee – and all proceeds from card sales will benefit Cub Camp.

Flight Deck Brewing, at Brunswick Landing, will also donate a portion of its proceeds from beer sales Wednesday, May 17, from 4-8 p.m.

Wright, who oversees several youth mentoring programs in the school system, is also soliciting donations on her own. As of Monday afternoon, a GoFundMe online fundraiser had generated just shy of $300.

Last summer, 40 pre-kindergarten students – about 20 percent of the kindergarten population – attended Cub Camp at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary building.

Every morning for five weeks, school teachers and behavioral interventionists taught basic core academic skills. Students’ skills in oral counting and letter identification improved among all 15 participants, based on data collected by the School Department.

Perhaps as importantly, the experience acclimated the new students to the classroom environment – “an opportunity to experience a school and academic environment before they start school,” Superintendent Paul Perzanoski said in an email last week.

The initiation period is both preparatory and preventive, designed to bring kindergartners up to speed and to anticipate potential classroom issues.

In that sense, Cub Camp is unique among the schools’ learning intervention programs, according to Principal Steve Ciembroniewicz.

“What’s unique about pre-K Cub Camp is that it provides an opportunity to work with children on identified needs before they even start the school year,” Ciembroniewicz said, emphasizing the word “before.”

Because Brunswick does not have public pre-school, Wright noted that socio-economic barriers can often thwart access to early childhood education. Cub Camp, she said, is in part meant to address socio-economic disparities that create disadvantages for students whose families lack the means for private pre-school.

“Anecdotally, we know that (the participants’) adjustment to school has been positive and we will review their performance data at the end of the school year compared to students who did not have the experience,” Perzanoski said.

He gave Wright permission to raise money to fund the program this winter, after she discovered the program would be discontinued.

“Certainly if we were to receive enough funding … we would run the program again,” Perzanoski said.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

The Brunswick School Department headquarters at 46 Federal St.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.