Schools roll out pre-K program

Published 9:58 am Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Staff members at Albert Lea Area Schools are hoping that a new program will make sure every pre-kindergartner is ready to start school with all the necessary skills when they reach kindergarten age.

Jenny Hanson, a coordinator with Community Education’s Early Childhood Family Education, will be supervising the new program. Kayla Olson, a coordinator with the Community Education’s school readiness program, will be the teacher starting this fall.

Though the staff is from Community Education, the new program is just for students of Albert Lea schools who aren’t a part of any other preschool program or who qualify because of low-income.

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Superintendent Mike Funk said the funding for the program, which is new this year, came from the state and will help the district’s goal of having all third-graders be able to read well.

“This will help some of our disadvantaged kids level the playing field a little bit,” Funk said.

Hanson said that though there are other preschool options in the area, that not all children have that opportunity. Whether it be from income, language or availability issues, not all students come into kindergarten with necessary skills.

The program can help families who would otherwise only utilize a day care facility, where children might not learn some skills that kindergarten teachers would expect. These include academic, social and motor skills.

Olson said kindergarten teachers in the past have seen some students lack social skills like being able to sit in a group, listen to stories or the teacher and not being able to share, among other qualities. For academic issues, some students who haven’t been to preschool can’t recognize their name or letters or numbers. Even some motor skills may be lacking like using scissors, working on balance or how to hold a pencil.

“We’re trying to help kids who aren’t being helped,” Olson said.

She said they’ve worked with other preschools in town to determine necessary skills and that the program isn’t meant to replace other preschool options. This new program will help up to 40 children who might not be able to afford other preschool opportunities in town.

“Families do have to qualify,” Hanson said.

There’s an application process for the program, and registration has already started. Hanson said they’re also hosting a communitywide registration day on July 26 to explain the process and help families with the application. Anyone can come to either Sondergaard or Memorial parks any time from noon to 3 p.m. or 4 to 6 p.m. Spanish interpreters will be available as well.

To be eligible students must be age 4 or older as of Sept. 1 and not enrolled in kindergarten. Applications are available at Albert Lea High School, too. The pre-kindergarten program starts Sept. 10 with two sessions. One session will be from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and another will be from noon to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays during the entire school year. Though the program is for anyone in the district who qualifies, it will take place at Halverson Elementary School where space is available.