Brandy Shumway, the school district’s student services director, has spent the last two years researching the benefits and challenges of offering a preschool program that is underwritten by the school district. The new preschool will be for 4-year-olds who will enter kindergarten the following year.
Her research helped to convince the Grand County Board of Education that a preschool program was something worth pursuing.
“I looked at different programs around the state,” she said. “They felt that it was something we should do. It was a chance to be proactive.”
Shumway said that school readiness when starting kindergarten has a significant impact on a student’s success in school.
“When students enter with school readiness, they don’t access special education services as often,” she said.
Many of the students who demonstrate school readiness who do use special education services transition out of the program sooner than their peers who did not start school with the same skills, according to Shumway.
Currently, many incoming kindergarteners are showing up for school, and they aren’t prepared, she said.
“It takes kids most of the year to catch up to where they should be,” she said.
According to statistics provided by Shumway, at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, 123 students entered kindergarten. Of those students, 41 percent performed at well below grade level expectations. Of those students, 62 percent had no prior preschool experience. An additional 13 percent of the kindergarteners were performing below expectations.
“I am very excited about this program,” Grand County School Superintendent Scott Crane said. “I view this preschool as a method to work with our community preschools in a collaborative effort to prepare our students for kindergarten.”
Shumway said that, in many cases, the students who are the least prepared are also coming from a lower socioeconomic status.
“Our main focus will be students whose families are unable to pay for private preschool,” she said.
A student’s eligibility for free tuition is determined by their eligibility for the free and reduced lunch program. For students who don’t qualify, a fee of $100 per month will be charged.
The Rural Utah Child Development Head Start program already offers spots for some low-income children, and Shumway said students will be able to enroll at both schools.
The district is working to secure some grant money to help with the program, but Shumway said that by using the existing facilities at the Sundwall Preschool, the district will be able to offer two classes a day, and the only additional expense to the district will be the salary for one teacher.
The district is hoping to keep the class sizes small, by offering two classes each day and limiting those classes to eighteen to 20 students, she said.
Registration opened April 28 for the preschool program, which will begin this fall and will remain open until all the classes are filled, she said. Registration packets are available at the Technical Science and Art Center, located at Grand County High School. They will be available from 9 a.m. until noon and from 1 to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Students must have a copy of their birth certificate and immunization records in addition to filling out the information in the packet.
There is a $35 registration fee, however, that fee will be waived for low-income individuals, Shumway said.
“We want to make sure that it’s clear that we’re not trying to take anyone else’s business,” Shumway said. “We’re just trying to reach kids who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to attend preschool.”
“We have wonderful preschools in Moab,” Crane said. “We just want to strengthen those efforts and try to provide a preschool experience for those children that are unable to have that experience.”
The school district will hold an informational meeting on May 13 at 6 p.m. for local agencies and preschool providers. The meeting will be held at the district office, 264 South 400 East.