By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Members of the Goshen Board of School Trustees Monday got their one month update on the corporation’s newly established Early Childhood preschool program. And according to Prairie View Elementary School Principal Tracey Noe, its been one exciting ride.
“Wow, its been a month. It’s hard to believe its been that long since those little boys and girls walked into our building,” Noe said of the program’s Sept. 24 kickoff. “You never know on any given day what’s going to happen in the preschool room, so its been kind of exciting to watch.”
At last count, Noe indicated the program’s enrollment had settled at 62, just six under the total capacity of 68 students for the two-room program.
“So we still have a few openings to fill,” Noe said. “We’ve been getting students periodically through the process, so I can’t imagine that won’t be at capacity before long.”
In discussing curriculum for the preschool program, Noe indicated that instruction within the first month has been very basic, with instructors focusing primarily on teaching the kids exactly what it means to be a student and what is expected of them while in the classroom.
“The first couple weeks was just learning school, learning routines, learning how to walk in a line and how to find the bathrooms,” Noe said. “Curriculum-wise we started with the basics, the colors, parts of the body, senses, just things that preschoolers need. We’re doing that through a lot of hands-on exploration as well as small teaching groups and sometimes larger groups when it calls for it. So we’re immersing them in that whole process of when it’s time to learn, what do we do? What does a learner look like?”
In addition to the basics, Noe also referenced the use of the newly acquired “Splash” curriculum that focuses on the teaching of beginning reading skills for pre-K students — an area Noe said has traditionally shown a particular need for early intervention.
“This week, (the students) are going pretty deep into the Splash curriculum, which is something that we brought on that supports our Journeys reading textbook adoption recently,” Noe said. “We didn’t really know where to go with the curriculum, and we thought well, we’ll start where we need the support, which is reading.”
Moving beyond the actual in-class instruction, Noe noted that the program has also been looking at how better to incorporate parent involvement into the mix, particularly when it comes to education outside of the classroom. On a positive note, Noe indicated that parent involvement up to this point has been strong and continues to evolve.
“We had a meet-and-greet night, and ended up with about 58 of our parents attending, and then the two others were contacted by phone,” Noe said. “The teachers also work on Fridays, and they try to touch base with two or three home visits every Friday. They’ve been awakened to the situations that some of our students are coming from. They get to see the environments that those kids are coming from, and get a little bit of understanding of why those students are where they are.”
With one successful month of the new program now under her belt, Noe said she won’t be stopping there, adding she already has plans to meet with several of the program’s key players later on in the year to discuss what was done right, and what could be changed or improved down the line.
“We’ll be meeting with (GCS Title I Director) Mary Kay Longacre and myself and several other people just to look at what went well with the beginning, and what we need to work on,” Noe said. “That includes everything from transportation to what we needed to do differently at Prairie View.”
That said, Noe noted how impressed she is with the initial performance of the new preschool program, adding that she is hopeful the program can be expanded in future years to handle more children within the district.
“Our Title I schools are going to benefit from what’s happening,” Noe said, “and hopefully we can get to the point where we can even service more students.”
School board member Cathie Cripe was quick to agree.
“It has to be available to every child that needs it. Period,” Cripe said. “We just have to get there.”