Deal originally proposed cutting the school day from six and a half hours to four hours and cutting teachers' salaries by more than 30 percent, but altered his plan earlier this month after public outcry from teachers and parents.
Local school systems currently are developing plans and preparing to accommodate the potential changes to the lottery-funded program, which saw a $300 million shortfall this year.
Cartersville City Schools Superintendent Howard Hinesley announced during last week's board of education work session that the system developed a process to determine when to shorten the pre-k year.
"It looks like we're starting to get feedback from parents and staff about where we're going to get the 20 days," Hinesley said. "And as it stands right now, it seems like the majority of people would like for the school year to be delayed starting, that way kids can participate in all of the end of school year events and functions."
Buffy Williams, Bartow County Schools Director of Elementary Curriculum, echoed Hinesley's remarks, saying Bartow's pre-k program also will begin the school year late.
The voluntary program is designed to prepare 4-year-olds for kindergarten but has been met with space constraints.
"When we drew our lottery [student selection] we made sure to go ahead and pull 22 names and told the parents if we did expand to 22 [students], those two would be the first in the classroom," Williams said.
She said pre-k students either attend the county's STARS Pre-K center or at an appropriate Bartow school that hosts a pre-k program, such as Adairsville High School. Cartersville pre-k students attend the subsidized Kids and Company Pre-Kindergarten program.
Cartersville City Schools Assistant Superintendent Ken Clouse explained the school system has spent between $100,000 and $200,000 each year to fund the program. He said the proposed state funding cut would have an impact on the program, but it is too early to determine the extent.
"We treat our teachers and staff there like we would any other grade," Clouse said. "We fully believe in the pre-k program. We have tracked those students through the years and, when they approach second grade, they're doing very well as opposed to those who don't come through a program like we have."
Both Clouse and Williams said it is too early to predict whether the reduction in teacher salary will result in turnover or smaller teaching staff.
"Hopefully our teachers will be able to endure and stay because they're very well trained and they know what to do with our children," Williams said.
They both were optimistic about students in the programs continuing to receive quality instruction, but said a 20-day reduction in classes will be a transition from previous years.
"Our teachers, who we have a great deal of faith in, will be looking at their curriculum and making the necessary adjustments to provide the best quality program and best preparation there is," Clouse said.
"The program is developmental," Williams said, "so if the children are showing us what their needs are and what they need to learn, that is how teachers progress through the curriculum. Hopefully we won't see that kind of delay with our students and will be able to keep them on track."