Grant Co. to expand preschool to all day service starting this fall; more staff being hired to place a preschool classroom in every elementary building

Grant County News, Williamstown, March 31, 2016

All-day preschool begins next year
By Bryan Marshall

Amanda Newman knows the benefits of preschool in preparing students for kindergarten. She has been on both sides.

In her third year as a preschool teacher at Crittenden-Mt. Zion Elementary, Newman spent one year each teaching kindergarten at CMZ, Mason-Corinth Elementary and Sherman Elementary.

“Kindergarten is packed with so much information that students who attend preschool will have all the pre-literacy and pre-mathematical foundation blocks in place for learning to happen naturally,”
Newman said. “Research tells us that brain development is at the highest growth level from birth to 5 years of age and from my standpoint in the classroom it seems like if you create a rich literacy and math environment that my students just soak it up like little sponges.”

Beginning next year, preschool students at Grant County Schools will have even longer each day to soak up knowledge. The district will be expanding its preschool program to all day for the first time.

Grant County currently has 107 students enrolled in the four-day-a-week program. There is one classroom at each elementary school that has a morning and afternoon class taught by a certified teacher and an instructional assistant.

The program serves 3 and 4-year-old students who have a disability and 4-year-old students who meet income eligibility and turn 4 by Aug. 1.

The motivation for the expansion of preschool to all day was simple, said Heather Clay, director of student instructional services for Grant County Schools.

“It’s good for kids,” Clay said. “Kindergarten readiness is a huge focus in our preschool program. The additional time will be devoted in working with students in individual and small groups. We will work on academic skills, along with the social and emotional needs of the students. The goal is to close the gaps for the students so they can start on an equal playing field.”

Clay said the district also felt the all-day program would help working families who otherwise may have had to forego preschool because of day care issues related to the half-day schedule. Although the program is expanding, the ratio must remain one adult for every 10 students.

By extending the program to full day, it will require Grant County Schools to open a new classroom at every elementary.

The district will be hiring four additional certified teachers and four additional instructional assistants.

Newman is excited about the switch to all-day preschool.

The biggest obstacle Newman faces now having two classes back to back is the rushed feeling and trying to pack in as much as possible.

“I have found myself teaching colors and counting with students during odd times like breakfast/lunch and restroom breaks trying to make every minute count,” she said. “They love it and just follow along unaware that they are learning new things so it works out.”

The biggest advantage Newman sees for preschoolers in an all-day program is more one-on-one time to prepare them for kindergarten.

Clay is hoping with the longer day, more students can participate as well.

“We are currently scheduling ppointments for next year’s registration,” she said. “Our goal is to serve as many 3- and 4-year-old children as possible."

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