Beginning in August, the Licking Heights Local School District will take over preschool programming for area children and expand before- and after-school classes through an enhanced partnership with the Licking County Family YMCA.

Beginning in August, the Licking Heights Local School District will take over preschool programming for area children and expand before- and after-school classes through an enhanced partnership with the Licking County Family YMCA.

"We think there's a need in the community," said Philip Wagner, Licking Heights superintendent.

He said the program is similar to the Flying Colors program the Licking County Educational Service Center formerly provided the district.

Wagner said the goal is to create a program to prepare children 3 years old to prekindergarten age for a smooth transition into the Licking Heights district.

He said an enrollment of 77 students is predicted and, as of Thursday, April 26, 24 children were registered.

Heather Hawkins, director of child development for the Licking County Family YMCA, said her organization currently partners with the Licking Valley Local School District to offer a similar program.

Hawkins said the new preschool classes will be offered at Licking Heights North Elementary School.

Preschool teachers will work directly with kindergarten teachers to coordinate curricula and ensure preschool students are prepared for kindergarten.

"The superintendent and teachers have been very welcoming," Hawkins said.

According to an information packet the school district and YMCA distributed to parents, tuition for the Monday through Thursday preschool program is $100 per week for Licking Heights residents and $115 for all others.

For Monday through Friday, tuition is $125 per week for residents and $140 for all others. Special-needs students will not be charged.

"I think it's the right thing for our district," said Richard Wand, school board president.

He said the Flying Colors program formerly was based at West Elementary School. It eventually was pushed out of the building because there was no longer room for it.

Wand said offering the YMCA program is not related to the district's recent decision to cut most of its ties with the Licking County ESC.

"It was going to happen regardless," Wand said. "We've been talking about doing this for years and years."

He said part of the district's motivation in establishing the program is to allow future Licking Heights students to remain in the district and not be bused to other parts of the county.

Also, the program allows preschoolers to spend the day with the children who will become their classmates when they transition to kindergarten.

To register children for the program, Hawkins said, parents should call Licking Heights at 740-927-6926 or the western branch of the county YMCA in Pataskala at 740-964-9621.