District improves, expands pre-k program

Helen Weiss, Staff Writer

The pre-kindergarten program, or the PUPS Program, is now a part of all of the elementary schools in the district. The Pups program started three years ago when all the grades had to be shifted up in the schools. Laura Brown, Early Childhood Director, shares the benefits of early childhood education. Each preschooler is improving by starting earlier and learning social skills. A large number of the preschoolers in the past have started school without knowing how to use public restrooms, use a water fountain, or socialize with others their own age. Most of the preschoolers did not use words, and instead used only their hands and actions to get their point across to their peers.

Laura Brown is the Early Childhood Directorfor Rolla Public Schools and oversees all of the preschool programs; one including the “Parents as Teachers” program. The Parents as Teachers program is where parent educators do home visits to teach children who are prenatal to five years old.

“Pre-K in Rolla Public Schools are available for students who turn four by July 31. It’s an opportunity for them to have one year of preschool prior to going into kindergarten. So our preschool is half day; they either go in the morning session or afternoon session based on student preference, teacher preference, or the preference of the parents,” Brown said.

The preschoolers can go during different times and participate in various activities. The children are also provided an opportunity with closing circle and opening circle called family time.

“They’re all together with the teacher and they either do a greeting or a song or whole group reading. They also have the opportunity for centers, so that’s when they build and play and learn, that’s when their social time happens,” Brown said. “They also have an opportunity to go outside and build that gross motor time, so if it’s raining outside, we provide them with a big open space, usually the gym, and they get to run around and play and build those big muscle skills.”

The children need to use their abilities in order to interact with one another. When talking with the kindergarten teachers and principals, Brown believes there are visible improvements in her preschoolers.

“Talking with the kindergarten teachers and principals at all three elementry schools, I think they would tell you that their kids are very used to the structure of the school day, they are very familiar with the environment they know the expectation as far as arriving to school being safe sitting on the rug drinking out of a water fountain, using public restrooms, all of those skills that we were having to teach in kindergarten can now happen in the preschool setting,” Brown said.

While there are lots of enhancements with this program, there are some downsides with all of the students that now want to join the Pups program.

“Our preschool is a very controlled setting, so we don’t have enough space for all of the kids within our district to attend. One of the areas that would look like a negative is we have kids that have to be on a waiting list for a spot to open in order to be in our preschool. I think not being able to serve every interested preschooler is a concern of mine,” Brown said.

There is a place for every child for K-12, but preschoolers do not have that space to come into schools.

“Creating space is a little tricky. The financial aspect of that when you open a classroom you have to hire a teacher, but we are always looking at ways to expand to serve all of our preschool kids,” Brown said.