McKinley Elementary School touts successful preschool program – Canon City Daily Record
Several years ago, the Echo & Family Center Early Childhood Council and Cañon City School District hoped to facilitate a new preschool program within an existing elementary school and McKinley was the lucky institution to be chosen.
Three years ago, McKinley launched its first preschool program, which consisted of two classes for children, aged 4 and 5. It was a resounding success and the program currently boasts four classes full of children aged 2 1/2 to five years old.
Special to the program is the fact that each teacher possesses both a bachelor’s degree, as well as their teaching license — a rarity in preschool programs.
“That’s unique, most preschool programs just allow certification so the fact that we have degreed teachers is pretty unique,” Preschool Director Kelly Coyle said.
The program proudly has a 1:8 teacher/student ratio as each room also possesses a capable paraprofessional and/or assistant teacher.
The children in the program also benefit from participating in classical school activities, such as physical education classes, music, and technology and a class called choices (where social and emotional learning are of paramount importance).
“Most schools probably incorporate some of those things but to have a standalone specials course is very unique,” Coyle said.
Kids also have the benefit of therapists coming directly to their classrooms to assist in their development. Speech, occupational, and special education therapy all partake in daily activities to help the kids grow.
McKinley preschoolers also have the opportunity to take part in activities with the rest of the school. Assemblies, performances, and back-to-school get-togethers are available to the kids, which helps them flow into the regular activities of elementary school.
Coyle anticipates at least half of the current preschool children to move into kindergarten in the coming years and knows the value of attending preschool before entering a more structured environment–such as kindergarten and 1st grade.
“They get to experience life as an elementary school student so they meet their specials teachers, they get to meet their school principal and it gets them even more ready for kindergarten,” Coyle said.
The program has two classes dedicated to morning and afternoon sessions of three hours each and two classes built specifically for parents busy from the hours of 8:30 am to 2:30 pm Though full, the program also has an extended day for a limited number of children through 4 pm
McKinley will also be one of many preschool sites, whether standalone or within a school, to partake in the upcoming Colorado Universal Preschool Program.
According to the Colorado Department of Early Childhood’s website, “in the 23-24 school year, the Department of Early Childhood is slated to fund at least 10 hours of high-quality, voluntary preschool for every Colorado child in their year before entering kindergarten. ”
However, Coyle hopes that prospective families understand that the program isn’t relegated to just 10 hours.
To take advantage of the program, families must first reach out to the Echo & Family Center Early Childhood Council at 719-276-6174. From there, ECHO will run a screening that consists of general developmental skills and then interview the family.
McKinley’s Principal Jessica Stevens described the program as “fluid enrollment” and ECHO can be contacted at any time to start the application process and conduct year-round screenings.
McKinley may or may not continue to expand the program in the coming years but, rest assured, preschoolers will approach their elementary school years full of confidence and vigor.