For the past few years, the Clinton School District has partnered with area preschools to offer preschool for 4-year-olds. This year, two of the preschool sections are being offered in the district itself.
The preschool program is state funded and free to all 4-year-olds. Director of Student Services Jay Chelf said the district’s partnership with area preschools worked for the past few years. A total of 22 sections of preschool were held for area children. Last year, the sections were filled by February or March.
This spring, Ashford University announced it would no longer have preschool classes. Ashford had four sections of preschool, which Chelf said were needed. The district asked other area preschools to pick up extra sections. Prince of Peace took on two more sections. However, Chelf said they knew 20 sections would not be enough to accommodate all of the area 4-year-olds.
The school district decided it would open a morning and afternoon section of preschool. Bluff Elementary School was chosen for the space it offered. General-education preschool Teacher Denise Bussie, para-educator Debbie Jensen and special-education teacher Sara Feldpausch were chosen to run the sections. Chelf said the three women make a great team and made the start-up process a lot smoother.
When Bussie first learned Bluff would have preschool, she knew it was the job she wanted. Feldpausch and Jensen were also excited about the preschool sections.
Feldpausch said there was a fair amount of work to be done. They did not learn until July that the preschool sections would be held at Bluff Elementary. She said it was crazy trying to get everything done. The teachers had to hunt down supplies and order more.
The teachers had to make sure the preschool room had the appropriate centers for a creative curriculum. Feldpausch said they needed to make sure they had enough equipment to engage the children. Bussie said they found a rug with the alphabet, four seasons and a variety of pictures on it. She said it has become the children’s central meeting area.
The Bluff preschool sections run from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Bussie, Feldpausch and Jensen agreed that preschool is important because it offers pre-kindergarten skills and encourages social development. Chelf said he feels children who attend preschool are more prepared.
Feldpausch said most 4-year-olds have never had any school experience. She said preschool teaches them the basics, such as colors, shapes, how to write their names and how to stand in line. Bussie said preschool introduces children to social lessons on getting along with friends, sharing and following the rules.
The three teachers agree that they feel having the preschool sections at Bluff is a benefit. The kindergarten class is near the preschool room. Feldpausch said this allows the children to see what the next step in their education will be. They can see and become comfortable with the kindergarten teachers and see what kindergarten students do. Bussie said the preschool children like to watch the kindergarten students on the playground.
“I think some families were very happy because especially if their student is going to be in kindergarten in Bluff next year,” said Chelf.
Chelf said this is also convenient for parents who have another child at Bluff already. The preschool teachers agreed it is very convenient and said there has been a lot of parent involvement in the program.
Feldpausch said having the preschool at Bluff is also very convenient for the three of them as well. She said she likes the support system they have at the school. The staff is always available to them for questions. She said this allows them to remain consistent with the kindergarten curriculum.
Feldpausch, Bussie and Jensen love their jobs and working together. Bussie said she enjoys seeing how children grow over time in class. She likes watching their faces light up and they get excited when they try new things. Feldpausch enjoys seeing the special-education students make friends and socialize.
Chelf said it is never too late to get students enrolled. Space is still available for anyone with an eligible 4-year-old. People can contact Julie Matzen at the Roosevelt Administration building at 243-9600 for more information.