District Expands

Thursday, March 16, 2017

4-year-olds offered classes, day care all-day preschool

"Every day, they really do learn something.'

"We are ... focusing on providing strong foundational skills that will give our students the ability to excel,' said Nicole Kooiker, superintendent of Ottumwa Mark Newiiitiri/Tliu Caw schools.

The school day at Agassiz is not day cm1; in response to an email to the central office, Kooiker’s staff replied, "Day care does not provide any formal instruction. Our preschool program has certified teachers ... using curriculum that is scientifically- based. While... it looks like play, there are planned activities each day. [It | is very purposeful I regarding I what the goals are and how it benefits children."

By adding students at age 4, Kooiker said she’ll be able to grow t! he program and offer more for area families.

The mom picking up her preschooler said the US, is behind when it comes to education: Other countries start their kids younger, gu to school longer and keep vacations shorter. It doesn’t hurt, she said, to start teaching early.

"They’ll even learn at 3 years old," Cox said while walking to her car with Bruce. "That’s when the brain is doing the most growing."

For example, she said, language can develop early in kids, and with her son, it seemed to her that he went from few individual words before age 3 to suddenly ("click," she said) speaking in full sentences.

"I plan on teaching him this summer; when I was his age, I wanted to learn," Cox said.

"We believe," said Superintendent Nicole Kooiker, "that getting students into school at an early age helps students develop the skills necessary to be successful throughout life."

However, in order to have each 4-year-old attend a! ll day, there were some obstacles to overcome. For parents who are concerned about the logistics of getting to work and having a 4-year-old in school all day, the district believes the way has been cleared.

Outside of the school day, there will be a child care service offered both before and after classes.

The reason to include "wraparound" services is to help parents who are working. They acknowledged it is difficult to leave work, go pick up your child, then go back to work.

"Wraparound services will allow students to attend from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to accommodate working parents. There will be no fee for this program," reads a release from the district.

The "wraparound" part is DHS approved, and allow for enrichment throughout the day, the district stated.

Another obstacle was space: Though Agassiz is a lar! ge building, the second floor couldn’t be used except as "grownup" space; the teachers’ lounge could be there, for example, there could be some storage or an administrator could have an office. But preschool students couldn’t be up there.

Having 4- and 5-yearolds using the stairs is not considered the problem; many of the students already go up and down stairs at home. The problem is that having the district’s littlest students on a second or higher floor violates fire code: There’s supposed to be an exit on any floor with such young children.

"They’ve developed a plan for that situation, which we approved," Ottumwa Fire Chief Tony Miller told the Courier Wednesday. "So we’ve granted a waiver. This is a one time deal because they’ll be building a new preschool."

Miller said the kids will be ! safe, and the waiver is good for at least a year. The district estimates the new preschool will open in August, 2018. So now, that hurdle is past.

Parents seeking additional information or who want to enroll may contact the preschool at 641-684-7179.

Reporter Mark Newman can be contacted at mnewman@ ottumwacourier. com and followed on Twitter @ couriermark.


Category: Education

Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation 217 East Main Street Ottumwa, IA  52501
Phone 641.682.3465 Fax 641.682.3466