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Washington School Board moves to approve additional preschool class for next year

GTNS photo by Gretchen Teske

The Washington Community School Board approved adding a fourth preschool class for the 2019-2020 school year at their meeting on Wednesday, May 8.
GTNS photo by Gretchen Teske The Washington Community School Board approved adding a fourth preschool class for the 2019-2020 school year at their meeting on Wednesday, May 8.

A fourth section of 3-year-old preschool will be added for the 2019-2020 school year following a formal request from Stewart Elementary Principal Adam Miller.

In a letter to the Washington Community School Board, Miller explained the preschool count for next year is 48 students. An additional eight students are in the early access program and if they were to qualify for an individual education plan (IEP), they will join on their 3rd birthday, bringing the projected student count up to 56.

“Early access (is) from birth to 3 years old. If a student is identified as maybe having some extra needs ... there’s a group from Grant Wood AEA (Area Education Agency) that will go in and serve them in their home. Once they turn 3 years old, then they transition over to the school age 3-year-old program,” he said.

Grant Wood AEA is an education agency that partners with public schools in Iowa to improve learning outcome. An IEP is designed for students who have extra needs such as speech or occupational therapy.

“The key really is we’re getting a lot more overall bodies that are wanting to come to our 3-year-old program,” he said. “I think there’s been a lot of word-of-mouth that there’s a really great group of educators and three-year old teachers and staff, so there’s a lot more people that are joining on.”

Three years ago, the program held about 40 students and has now increased to a potential 60 students enrolling. Currently, the school has three sections of 3-year-old preschool that can serve up to 20 students each, but Miller requested a fourth class because he felt having 19 or 20 students per classroom would not allow for the students’ needs to be met. Seven students enrolled for next year have an IEP and place and if the eight students in the early access program are accepted, that will bring the number up to 15 students who need help with individual needs.

“Three-year-olds (when) they come in, it’s their first experience at school and we really work on a lot of social skills and our 3-year-olds are just a very active population and we really want to have a lot smaller group so we can reach them,” he said. “Early intervention is always a lot better. It’s just getting them started on the right foot and so for that age group, it’s really important to try to keep your numbers a lot lower than that 19-20 range for effective instruction for the kids.”

Additionally, he said the list typically grows throughout the summer by at least 10 students. They try to leave extra slots available for students because if a student moves to the area and requires an IEP, they are responsible for their care as they are the only preschool that can serve them.

In other news, Lincoln Elementary will be getting upgrades this year as the board moved to approve the purchase of new windows for the west side of the building from Wood Construction Inc. at a cost of $101,628. Washington Community Schools superintendent Willie Stone explained a grant has been applied for to cover the cost of these windows but they need to be ordered now for them to arrive in time to be installed for the school year.

Nine-hundred feet of 6-foot tall black vinyl chain link fence will be added to the perimeter of Lincoln at a cost of $31,495. Stone said the project is similar to the one done at Stewart years before and will help with security and vandalism.

“We want to make sure we protect our property and protect what we have,” he said.

The next meeting of the Washington Community School Board will be Wednesday, June 12, at 7 p.m., in the Brighton Community Center.