South Bend Community Schools start preschool for first time

For the first time, South Bend Community School Corporation is welcoming preschoolers through their halls. 

Monday, the district opened its preschool classroom doors to about 400 new students. 

If the program is a success this year, it could help the district secure funding to expand to all of its elementary school buildings.  

Parents like Antonio Hampton are already fans. 

“It’s kind of exciting seeing him getting ready and how excited he is to go to school,” Hampton said. 

But getting to the first day of preschool wasn’t as easy as A-B-C for administrators.

“We’ve been working on this plan all the way along for two years,” said superintendent Dr. Carol Schmidt. 

In that two years, there were several ups and downs.

Last fall, Indiana Governor Mike Pence decided not to apply for $80 million worth of federal funding for preschools, and St. Joseph County was rejected for a pre-k test program.

Dr. Schmidt and her team got creative.

“We decided that we would do it on our own,” Schmidt said. 

South Bend Community Schools partnered with Head Start, and used about $1 million worth of federal title one funding. 

After hiring some teachers and prepping classrooms, the building blocks fit together.

“We were able to do it no matter what anybody else was doing,” Schmidt said. 

Now, there’s 400 fewer kids on the Head Start waiting list. 

As for Hampton, he says he’s thrilled his 4-year-old son Preston has this opportunity.

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