Thanks to a federal grant funneled through the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Wayne Highlands School District is again accepting enrollment in a pre-kindergarten program. Classes will start December 2, and run through May 2009, in advance of the 2009-2010 kindergarten season.


Thanks to a federal grant funneled through the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Wayne Highlands School District is again accepting enrollment in a pre-kindergarten program. Classes will start December 2, and run through May 2009, in advance of the 2009-2010 kindergarten season.
Assistant Superintendent Sam Tallo said that the “Pre-K” program gives children an advantage in learning early how to socialize in a group setting away from home, develop emotionally and prepare to learn skills kindergarten offers. He said the program was well received last spring, when the Pre-K program was immediately put in place upon receipt of the grant allocation in March.
Wayne County Family Center partners with Wayne Highlands School District, supplying certified teachers and assistant teachers who will conduct the program at the Lakeside Elementary School, Damascus Area School and Preston Area School.
An application for enrollment has been sent home with elementary school children, and the District invites parents reading this article to apply. The cutoff date is November 6, 2008. Interested parents are asked to contact the Stourbridge Primary Center at 253-3010 and ask for Kandi Clark.
Any child eligible for kindergarten in the fall of 2009 can apply. Children will be selected on readiness needs identified through a readiness screening. There are no income guidelines. Children attending Head Start should not apply.
Sessions will be half day (3-1/2 hours) with lunch and transportation provided.  Tallo stated that whether or not there will be a morning and/or an afternoon session, in any particular building, will depend on enrollments and transportation.
In late November, parent conferences will be held with the Pre-K teachers.
Fifty families participated in the spring.  Tallo said that had good input from parents. Excerpts of one letter which he shared from a parent said, “it was an incredible pleasure to watch him (the boy) learn and mature” and greatly appreciated the efforts to help him prepare for kindergarten. About 25 parents called over the summer, asking when preschool would be offered.
“It’s very rewarding to see little ones get their first spark of what school is all about,” said Tallo, who previously was principal at Lakeside Elementary School.
The same teachers and assistants will be back, Tallo said. He added that staff at the schools involved had more to do, but they went “above and beyond” to make the program a success.
Dr. Rita Williams, Special Programs Coordinator for the District, wrote the application requesting the 21st Century Grant. The grant cover three years, at $160,000 a year. The District had requested twice this amount in hopes to be able to pay for preschool classes for the entire school year. Dr. Williams expressed pleasure that the grant covers all the District’s expenses for the program, including transportation. 
“Wayne Highlands wouldn’t have Pre-K without the grant,” said Dr. Williams,  “due to the mileage.” In square miles, Wayne Highlands is the second largest school district in the state, and their budget would not permit the added transportation costs for preschool trips. Tallo explained that the state allocates a fixed amount of transport funds per student.

Value of quality Pre-K
The value of preschool is outlined by Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, a combination of programs sanctioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Education:
As the school year comes to a close, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts is realizing the vision of helping children, families, teachers, and communities reach their promise. Approximately 11,000 3 and 4 year-olds in nearly every county across the Commonwealth have had access to a high quality early learning experience during the 2007-2008 school year thanks to Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts.
Children are showing improvement in:
•  Ability to recognize letters and words
•  Ability to write their names, letters, numbers
•  Language skills, especially among English language learners and those entering with limited language skills
•  Ability to verbalize their needs, desires
•  Self-help and self-regulation skills
•  Interest in playing and interacting with other children
Parents' involvement in their children's early learning is increasing
•  Parents have reported "I had no idea how much my child could learn”
•  Parents are participating in learning activities at home and volunteering in their children's classrooms
•  Parents are networking with each other, organizing play groups and becoming more involved in their children's early learning.
For more information, see www.prekcounts.org.