FLEMINGSBURG —A new preschool will open at E.P. Ward Elementary School in Fleming County in August of this year.
This opening is part of a district-wide program that plans to have preschool classrooms in all elementary schools. Melissa James, Director of Special Education and Preschool Coordinator for Fleming County Schools says this project has been a goal of hers for some time.
“When I took this job, that was one thing I wanted to do,” she said.
Each year, the school district receives state funded preschool money, James said, which is paid to Licking Valley Head Start, an early childhood development center in the county via a contract.
In 2017, the topic of opening district operated preschools were brought into consideration.
“Last year we started talking, ‘let’s do one, let’s try one classroom, we’ll do it in Flemingsburg, a central location,’” James said, “and I had two or three of he principals say ‘I want one, I want one,’ so that’s how that went.”
Currently, there are preschool classrooms located in three of the four elementary schools in Fleming County: Flemingsburg Elementary School, Ewing Elementary School and Hillsboro Elementary School. James said the classrooms can hold a maximum of 20 students and attend classes for four days a week.
Certain criteria must be met for students to be eligible to attend the preschools, James said, which are determined by the state.
“So four year olds can do income eligible or they can have a disability,” James said. “If they have some sort of identified disability, and we screen them and go through the whole process, if they show a delay for the screening we do RTI—Response to Intervention with them before we make a referral.”
When compared to Head Start, the district preschools would include children from higher income families. According to James, while Head Start can accept incomes from 100-130 percent of the poverty levels, district preschools can accept up to 160 percent. Children who are three years old will only be eligible if they have a disability.
There has been a great interest in the new preschools, according to James, and a collaboration was formed with Head Start to reach out to families. Cirriculum between the two programs have been comparitively similar in the year since the opening of the first preschool.
“We’ve done in the past, when we were contracting with them, some networking together with them and the kindergarten teachers so that they’d be better prepared,” James said. “Now they have certain things they have to do, but we didn’t purchase a cirriculum. Hannah Harmon was one of our teachers that we hired and she kind of came with one to meet the preschool standards.”
This similarity may now come to an end with the implementation of the Bridge Performance Indicators, created and approved by the school board beginning its test run this coming school year.
“Mr. Creasman, at first, wasn’t going to have preschool participate, but they wanted to,” James said. “So they met and have come up with some of their own indicators at the preschool level.”
Indicators that may be required of preschool students would be a community service project, which James said might be a classroom based activity.
James is anxious to see how the indicators will have prepared them for kindergarten.