by Cathy Bonnstetter
GRAFTON -- Parents will have another option for their children in the fall when Pruntytown and Hepzibah grade schools open their public preschool programs.
The preschool programs are for any child who is 4 years old by Sept. 1, and who is properly enrolled.
The program will be held four full days of school each week.
For those who qualify, the Taylor County Board of Education will provide transportation and meals.
"This program, which is research-based, will be developmentally appropriate for 4-year-olds," said Becky Mattern, Taylor County's coordinator of instructional support services. "It is in the best interest of 4-year-olds and preparing them for kindergarten."
Children will be screened on May 17. Immunization records and a registered birth certificate are needed. Financial information will be taken, and children will be given appropriate tests.
Similar programs are already in progress at Flemington and Pruntytown schools. The programs are coordinated, so the content and assessments will be the same throughout the county.
Teachers have been selected for the new programs.
The Anna Jarvis class will be taught by Jeanne Sypolt, a veteran kindergarten teacher in Taylor County.
"Jeanne brings a lot of expertise to the program," Mattern said.
"The Hepzibah program will be taught by a relative newcomer to the county, Rebecca Spender. She is energetic and excited about the program."
Sypolt was last year's teacher of the year in Taylor County, and seventh runner-up in the state. She believes the program will make kindergarten a much more successful experience for many children.
"Kindergarten takes off so fast," she said. "Some 5-year-olds are already behind, and that's such an indictment. I feel bad when a child comes in and doesn't know how to use scissors and others are cutting rings around him."
The public programs are free. But many Taylor County parents still prefer the private preschool programs.
"We're finding there are enough children to go around," Mattern said. "Often, those private programs are only two or three days each week. That may meet the needs of some parents. Our four-day, all-day program may be too rigorous for some 4-year-olds. We are not indicating this is the way to go. It's just an option."
Actually, Mother Goose Nursery School in the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church is the only private preschool in Taylor County.
Leslie Cochran, one of two teachers at Mother Goose, does not see their population decreasing as the public programs grow.
"Our program is for children ages 3 to 5 years old," she said. "The classes are three days each week for 2 1/2 hours. We don't focus as much on the academics as we do the social needs of the children. Really, we need more preschools."