Submitted by Lindsey Derrick Dalton Public Schools Contributor
Preschool is a time for kids to prepare for kindergarten. It’s a time to get a taste of what school will be like for a child in the near future.
Each elementary school in Dalton Public Schools has pre-kindergarten classrooms — all schools have two classes except for Park Creek School and Blue Ridge School, which have three classes each. Every class has 22 students with both a teacher and a paraprofessional.
To enroll in pre-K, children must be 4-years-old on or before Sept. 1 of the school year — children who are 5 and have not attended the pre-K program and have late birthdays can also enroll.
Stella McHugh, a pre-K teacher at Roan School, says pre-K is not baby-sitting or day care.
“People don’t realize how much we do,” McHugh said. “They go to art, music, P.E.; it’s a well-rounded day. Pre-K is a wonderful way to help them prepare for school.”
To start off the year, McHugh said the students learn things that help them adjust to being in school and how to behave.
“They learn to be a student,” McHugh said. “They learn how to raise their hand, walk in a line, and they learn how to socialize in a school setting. They are taught how to behave and socialize. It’s a double whammy. Later in the year we move on to shapes, numbers and colors. We practice reading, but it’s not pushed.”
Mendy Woods’ son Alden began pre-K at Westwood this year and she said she likes him being on the same schedule as her older daughter.
“He’s already at the big school, so it won’t be as hard for him to adjust,” Woods said. “He’s getting to understand the classroom and instructions. It’s more than he’d get if he was at home.”
“Every child should have some sort of group experience before he starts kindergarten,” said Amy Flynn, director of New York City’s Bank Street Family Center.
According to Parents.com, pre-K is the time for your child to get out and discover that he or she can do things without mom or dad. It’s OK to take your children to other classes and day care, but those places are not teaching your child how to become a student.
Not only will your child have a social advantage when he or she enters kindergarten, but studies have shown that those children that do attend pre-K are more successful academically as they get older.
“Children who attend high-quality preschool enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies and stronger basic math skills than those who do not,” says National Institute for Early Education Research Director W. Steven Barnett.
“The pre-K program focuses on increasing school readiness,” Roan School Principal Cindy Parrott said. “Children learn through play. The emphasis is on language and literacy, math, science, social studies, arts, physical development and social and emotional competence. The pre-K program prepares the children for kindergarten where students will feel successful.”
“Kids that are in pre-K are more successful than those that stay at home,” McHugh said. “It keeps them from being behind in kindergarten, and they’re more successful in school. A lot of my former kids are already reading in kindergarten. I’ve had some children start out not even speaking English at first. It’s amazing how much they learn.”
“As a parent, you have to decide whether or not your child is ready,” Woods said of pre-K. “Some 4-year-olds are not. Mine was ready.”
For more information about pre-K and how to apply, go to http://decal.ga.gov/Prek/PreKHome.aspx or www.daltonpublicschools.com/content-and-engagement/pre-K/.