WARRENSBURG With societys ever-higher academic expectations for children, Warrensburg Central School is preparing to meet the challenge, school leaders said this week. Their pre-kindergarten program, under development for months, is ready to go Sept. 3 with a full classroom of youngsters, Elementary Principal Amy Langworthy said Monday. Were looking forward to this, she said. Its exciting to get this program off the ground. While children from economically-crimped families have relied for years on Head Start, and parents with financial resources have enrolled their children in Jan Higgins Hobby Horse Pre-school, many from financially-challenged families have been left out, according to Langworthy. Our Pre-K program offers an opportunity to level the playing field academically for all children, she said. With 22 children signed up for the program, which is offered in morning and afternoon half-day sessions, a few more openings exist, she said. We are hoping to fill up this week, she said, adding that school officials were pleased with the response from the community. The program is formulated to follow state guidelines foruniversal Pre-K, which they have been promoting in recent years to boost childrens readiness for primary school. The state is paying $80,000 this year to Warrensburg Central School which school district officials said this week would underwrite the cost of the program. One teacher and one teaching assistant are conducting the program. Hired as Pre-K instructor is Melinda Burkhardt, who has for several years served as a long-term teaching substitute at Warrensburg Central. Filling the position as her assistant is Deborah Collignon. The morning session begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 10:50 a.m., and the afternoon session starts at noon and ends at 2:50 p.m. Warrensburgs elementary teachers have been gathering games, toys and equipment to furnish the pre-K classroom, Langworthy said. Already, the classroom has a library, a sand/water table and a play kitchen, and a good supply of puzzles, blocks and educational toys, she said. Langworthy said Pre-K includes teaching basic language, math and observational skills in youngsters in a fun way, developing reasoning power through boosting physical and mental manipulative skills while boosting their social skills, including cooperation and following directions. Its a creative curriculum that will help kids learn both social and academic skills in a play environment so they are fully ready to enter school when theyre five, she said.