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Their first class: Cape opens school year with new preschool program

Friday, August 17, 2007

Jefferson Elementary prekindergarten teacher Amy Grammer showed her class that the index finger becomes the quiet sign during their first day of class Thursday morning. The prekindergarten program is at capacity in its first year with 60 students in four classes.
(Kit Doyle)
Darion Triplett spent Thursday morning demonstrating what the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would call symbolic development and conventional knowledge. Maybe even some fine motor skills.

For the 4-year-old, it was just fun cutting his modeling clay into pizzalike slices.

For the Cape Girardeau School District, this classroom setting is the first step in a new initiative to reach at-risk students as early as possible.

For three hours Thursday at Jefferson Elementary School, Darion and 12 other children played with blocks and other toys, practiced raising their hands and listening to their teacher, and learned where to store their backpacks and school supplies.

At one point, the children sat in a semicircle on a colorful rug. Teacher Amy Grammer rolled an orange ball to each child, after which she asked each of them their first names.

Four-year-old Darion Triplett, left, watched Amirion Saffold, 5, at a Play-Doh station Thursday during their first day of preschool at Jefferson Elementary.
(Kit Doyle)
The activities aren't arbitrary; each has a specific purpose, targeting key areas of development established by DESE for Missouri's preschool students. And each year, the state evaluates the success of prekindergarten education with the Preschool Assessment Project, an exit exam of sorts for 4- and 5-year-olds.

The Cape Girardeau School District kicked off its first day offering the preschool program at Jefferson and Blanchard elementary schools with a full roster of 60 students and a short waiting list.

"It is a wonderful opportunity to get children in school earlier," said Deena Ring, director of special services for the district. The goal, she said, is to help improve the academic skills of children before they get to kindergarten.

In the classroom at Jefferson, teacher Grammer said her goal is to get the children to learn some basic counting skills and to recognize their names. The curriculum includes learning letters, sounds, basic colors and shapes.

The program is open to 15 students in each of two morning sessions and 15 students in each of two afternoon sessions.

Prekindergarten students played at a building station during their first day of classes Thursday at Jefferson Elementary School.
Ring said she encourages other interested parents to sign up their prekindergarten children because some slots might open up later in the school year. Families sometimes move away, she said.

The classes have 4- and 5-year-olds from all five of the district's elementary school neighborhoods. While the program is available to children of all backgrounds, it is geared toward at-risk students. The prekindergarten children were among more than 4,000 students in pre-K through high school who showed up for the start of classes Thursday for the 2007-2008 school year, district officials said.

Ring and other school officials said they were thrilled with the demand for the pre-K classes.

Some families can't afford the cost of a private preschool, Ring said.

The district will charge families a sliding fee for preschool. The fee will be $2 a day for children who qualify for free lunches, $4 a day for children eligible for reduced-price lunches and $8 a day for all other children.

But that doesn't even begin to pay the cost. Fees are expected to generate less than $50,000 of the estimated $168,000 cost for the preschool program this first year, school officials said.

Grammer said she's encouraged by the interest of parents in the new program. Unlike other grades, the district doesn't provide bus transportation for prekindergarten students.

"They care enough to bring their children up here," she said of parents.

For the prekindergarten children, three hours can seem like a long time. As the morning class was winding to a close at Jefferson, one boy told the teacher that he wanted to go home. Others seemed ready to take a nap.

But Ring, who visited the two classrooms, said the children benefit from being in a classroom for that amount of time. "It gets them used to the whole school environment," she said.

Parents who picked up their children at the end of the morning session agreed. "I think it is a good idea to get them ready for kindergarten," Michaela Saffold said.


335-6611, extension 123

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This sounds like a good program but where is the money going to come from to continue to fund it? Why should tax money be used to send these children to a preschool program when there are great programs out there. I don't like the idea of my tax money paying for day care for these children when I had to pay for my own and the day care programs out there teach the same things you are talking about. This is yet another way for people to be given things even though they pay a sliding fee that is much less than other preschool programs. Things are hard enough for families who try to do things for themselves let alone more tax money used to fund yet another program. Next thing you know taxes will have to be increased to continue the program. This money could be used to improve the existing program grades k-12 to better prepare the already numerous kids who may be failing.

-- Posted by semofan77 on Fri, Aug 17, 2007, at 7:19 AM

Free preschool/daycare for certain Cape residents. Sounds like something I don't want my tax dollars going to.

-- Posted by SEMOfan80 on Fri, Aug 17, 2007, at 8:16 AM

I wonder if I took this article to my daycare if I could get my weekly rated dropped to a sliding fee instead of my usual $85 a week. Don't get me wrong this sounds like an excellent way of getting the kids ready for school but most daycares do teach their kids to know numbers, letters, and thier names. My son is 3 and knows all of this already.

-- Posted by The_Cliks_Rock_my_socks!! on Fri, Aug 17, 2007, at 8:24 AM

The index finger to quite the children down

seems so ridiculous to me.We sure can say a lot with our fingers,Cant we?!!!I think"class be quite" in a stern voice would be better then pointing fingers!So silly these newly trained teachers.

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Fri, Aug 17, 2007, at 8:43 AM

This is just another tax burden on the backs of those who want to stay home with their children and care for them. Making it less likely that those who want to care for their children and be responsible will be able to do so due to the heavy tax burdens. We need a tax credit for responsible parents and a tax on those who send their children to these programs. Why should I pay for others to dump their kids in preschool? It is the worst thing in the world for the children in the program and for the children of responsible parents who are doing everything in their power to stay home with them. Taxation without representation. If you have a child in this program you should pay the rest of us should not!

-- Posted by lovinlife&lovincape on Fri, Aug 17, 2007, at 9:03 AM

I think this is a wonderful idea! Way to go Mrs. Grammer. Using an attention getter, such as holding up a finger, requires students to make a kinestetic change thus shifting there attention to be quiet. C'mon people! Having YOUR tax dollars go toward early childhood programs in low income areas has the potential to SAVE YOU MONEY in the long run when these kiddos are able to read and be successful in school and the work place. Thats right! They are much less likely to end up in YOUR jails eating 3 squares with a bed that YOUR tax dollars fund. Look at the research - simple interventions like preschool programs tip the balance.

-- Posted by omyogini on Fri, Aug 17, 2007, at 11:03 AM

We all need to lobby the school board and the Missouri State Legislature for a tax credit to repay those who do not use these dump programs. It is Missouri's newest welfare program for deadbeat parents. I am writing my legislature now. It should be called the FREEDOM TO RAISE YOUR OWN CHILDREN WITHOUT UNFAIR TAXATION! We also need a tax credit for those who homeschool for the taxes they pay to educate the children of others. If we do not use the programs why should we pay for them? The government has demonstrated that they are not to be trusted to educate our children both academically(see the failing rating of the schools in the no child left behind testing) Morally they are teaching children things that should not be taught that is against most peoples religion. The schools are not safe from drugs and gun violence. In fact they are even making bullet proof book bags. Why should we give them new responsibilities to educate our youngest citizens when they have failed educating the ones they are supposed to now? This is and must be the responsibility of the parents. Again if the parents did not want the responsibility of raising their own children they should not have had them or put them up for adoption to someone who could care for them properly. Otherwise we will have more violent and irresponsible children who will reporduce more violent and irresponsible adults which is what we are seeing now.

-- Posted by lovinlife&lovincape on Fri, Aug 17, 2007, at 12:49 PM

lovinlife&lovincape, you're and idiot. Sounds like you have it all figured out. Since you have all the answers, why don't you make yourself useful, volunteer for our public schools and you will find out how fantastic they really are and maybe you will realize what it means to really "love life" and Cape.

-- Posted by Thinkforyourself on Sat, Aug 18, 2007, at 5:58 PM

I'll try not to point out all of the SPELLING MISTAKES lovinlifeincape and greywolf made while boo-hooing the idea of education. Also, unless you have a teaching credential and several years of experience, (which I doubt you have) you have no right to critique Mrs. Grammer's techniques.

As a community it is important to embrace all children, and especially those with more challenging circumstances. That way everyone benefits in the long run. I am sure that if you did either a little or a lot of research on the matter you would discover this.

I am continually amazed at how childish and selfish people can be about who's getting what, and how much; worrying that someone might get more than they did. What a waste of time. It is not as though these three year olds created this "heavy tax burden." Why would you penalize them? It just doesn't make sense.

The bottom line is really the issue of there not being enough money for education in the first place. Sure, give home-schoolers a tax credit, but make them accountable to the same academic standards and tests as public schools. In the meantime, let's keep these programs in place and well-funded and continue to focus on improving the education and lives of all of our students.

-- Posted by angelala on Tue, Aug 21, 2007, at 9:24 AM

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