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Pre-K classes expand

School district adds programs for next year

Posted: April 20, 2012 - 8:43am

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will offer three additional pre-kindergarten programs for the 2012-2013 school year.

The programs, funded with federal Title 1 grant money, will be available at Paul Banks Elementary in Homer, Seward Elementary and Sterling Elementary. With the newly offered programs, the district will offer Pre-K classes at a total of nine schools throughout the district. There are 98 students currently enrolled in six existing programs, and that number is expected to increase next year.

Title 1 programs are made available through federal grants to improve the achievement of students in schools serving low income populations. A school qualifies for Title 1 funding based on neighborhood income levels measured through free and reduced lunch enrollment counts, KPBSD communications specialist Pegge Erkeneff said.

Students who are eligible for the Pre-K programs must first go through a screening assessment that will measure the student’s kindergarten readiness, Erkeneff said. The goal is give those students who could benefit from extra instruction the opportunity to be prepared for kindergarten. The classes are 2 1/2 hours each day, and taught by a certified teacher.

“It helps prepare students for kindergarten,” Katrina Cannava, Soldotna Elementary Pre-K teacher said. “Kindergarten has changed a lot academically, just the expectations of students, over the last 10 years or less. It’s a lot more difficult now than it was when I was a child.”

Cannava said her classroom is very literacy-based, which allows students to learn the basics, how to hold a book, to read from left to right and vocabulary, just to name a few. To teach fluency, Cannava said she uses colors and shapes.

“We give them a piece of paper with maybe 10 colors, and they name them left to right,” she said. “Just the rapid naming skills to help them build fluency.”

Cannava teaches her students how to behave in a classroom, so they are prepared to interact with other students when they reach kindergarten.

“It’s really important them to have the skills to function,” Cannava said. “And focus on academics and not how to get along with this person and how do I share this toy.” 

The lessons kids learn in their Pre-K classes are critical for their transition to kindergarten, Nikiski North Star Elementary School kindergarten teacher Kim Trammell said.

“You can tell as soon as they walk in the door which kids have been in Pre-K and have not been in Pre-K,” she said. “Just from an academic standpoint to a social standpoint to an emotional standpoint. It’s just huge.”

Trammell said the Pre-K environment is a great place for kids to learn some of the basics that they’ll need to know in school.

“(It) teaches them how to cut, how to glue, all those tools that sometimes we just take for granted that kids know how to do,” she said. “The Pre-K environment gives them all those opportunities to explore and become very comfortable using all those kinds of things.”

Kids in the Pre-K program interact with the kindergarten students on a daily basis, Trammell said. They play on the playground together in the morning, and Trammell said she sees the Pre-K students in the hallway, so a sense of familiarity can develop. There is also a time where the Pre-K students will visit Trammell’s classroom and spend select mornings with the kindergartners.

Some of the things evaluators look for are social development skills, gross and fine motor skills, cognitive abilities, emotional development, language and communication skills, among others, Erkeneff said.

“When we look at child development, there are several factors that we consider for the optimal development of each child,” she said.

To attend a Pre-K class, the student must live in the attendance area of the school that’s offering the program, Erkeneff said.

In addition to the new programs, the elementary schools that offer Pre-K classes include: Chapman, Mountain View, Nikiski North Star, Redoubt, Soldotna and Tustumena.

For more information, visit the district’s website at http://www.kpbsd.k12.ak.us or contact the office at the attendance area school.

Logan Tuttle can be reached at logan.tuttle@peninsulaclarion.com.

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