Emily Robinson, Pre-K teacher at Vine Street School, works on letters and spelling with Kordell McLamb Tuesday at Vine Street School. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Fourteen Maine school districts will receive nearly $3 million in federal coronavirus relief funds so they can expand or create prekindergarten programs this year that serve more than 500 children.

Gov. Janet Mills on Monday announced the $2.7 million in grants to school districts throughout much of the state. Mills’ administration plans to announce another $6.3 million in grants later this year for prekindergarten programs set to begin in 2023.

The money comes from funds Maine is receiving under the federal American Rescue Plan Act that Congress passed last year. The grants will allow schools to either start, expand or reestablish pre-K classrooms.

The Bangor School Department plans to use the $75,000 in funds it will receive to expand all-day prekindergarten to two more schools in the city, school officials said last week. Students enrolled in a program piloting full-day pre-K have shown rapid academic and emotional growth since the beginning of the school year.

Hampden-based RSU 22 will receive nearly $330,000 to expand its pre-K program, the second largest grant of the 14. Kittery School Department, which will receive half a million to start a new program, saw the most new funds. 

The money will also be used to create new programs for school districts based in Greenville, Appleton, St. George and Yarmouth. School departments based in Skowhegan, Caribou and Limestone will receive funds to expand current programs. 

For RSU 22, the funds will allow the four-town school district to offer a full-day, full-week pre-K program for Hampden and Newburgh students, said district Pre-K Coordinator Dawn Moore.

In Greenville, Superintendent Kelly MacFadyen said the money will allow her rural department to start a new, all-day pre-K program.

“We hope to eliminate barriers for families, such as cost, transportation and childcare,” MacFadyen said.