BALDWIN PARK – Baldwin Park Unified will expand an all-day preschool program to 80 additional students in four new classrooms in fall 2017 under the provisions of a $2.8 million federal grant.

The expansion, which will launch in October, will allow the District to serve 195 students with the 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. all-day program, including 20 students in the District’s second preschool Spanish dual-language immersion classroom.

“This is an exciting opportunity that is proving very popular among our parents,” Superintendent Dr. Froilan N. Mendoza said. “Studies show students perform more strongly in kindergarten after participating in extended-day preschool.”

Baldwin Park Unified serves 1,400 Early Childhood Education students, including services funded by California State Preschool and federal Head Start programs. Most students attend an 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. morning session or a 12:30 to 3 p.m. afternoon session.

A pilot effort conducted in 2016-17 combined funds from the two programs to offer all-day service in six classrooms, which sparked great interest in the option among parents.

Now, Baldwin Park Unified is using a $2.8 million Head Start grant it received in January 2016 for expanding preschool options to acquire and install two, doublewide portable buildings. The buildings, capable of housing two classrooms each, are slated for Margaret Heath Elementary and North Park Continuation High School, neighborhoods where demand for services is strong.

The District will customize the portables, adding bathrooms and other amenities for the small children, as well as create playgrounds for the students near the buildings.

Cost of providing all-day services will be covered in 2017-18 by companion funding provided by Head Start in addition to the $2.8 million. District officials are uncertain whether the federal government will provide additional funds in the future to continue expanding the program, but see all-day preschool as a likely area of growth regardless.

“Families really responded to the all-day option,” Early Childhood Education Director Ricardo Rivera said. “I think we really tapped a vital interest with this program.”