Never too young to learn

Local preschool students show off their skills as USD 257 board members approve a grant for $210,800 to continue the community-based program.

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May 11, 2021 - 9:29 AM

Ready Set Learn preschoolers, from left, Nova Bishop, Cohen Sigg and Emery Sigg sing a song at Monday’s school board meeting. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Local preschoolers wowed USD 257 board of education members Monday night with a performance illustrating their mastery of math and English concepts at the tender ages of 3 and 4.

The students attend McKinley Elementary School and two private preschools that work with the district, Ready Set Learn and Munchkinland.

The partnership began two years ago when the district received a grant for a community-wide preschool. The goal is to offer a free preschool to all 3- and 4-year-old children in the district, and teach them the same curriculum so they are ready for kindergarten. 

This year, for the third year, USD 257 was awarded the Kansas Preschool Program grant. This year’s award is $210,800. Last year, the district received $180,000. The previous year, to start the program, the district was awarded $136,000.

Munchkinland preschoolers.Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

The additional money will pay operating costs, add 3-year-olds and help with transportation expenses.

Curriculum directors Jenna Higginbotham and Briana Curry asked the preschoolers to show off what they had learned this year. 

After the presentation, board members officially accepted the grant money and complemented the children and those who made the preschool program possible.

“Ten years ago, we as a board thought, ‘What can we do to increase our pre-K and even kindergarten,” board member Tony Leavitt said. “I don’t know that any of us ever really thought it would get to where it is now, so thank you.”

USD 257 preschoolers from McKinley Elementary School.Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

FOR HIGH school students, board members approved three new classes that can help those who intend to go to a trade school or directly into the workforce.

ACT WorkKeys is a program offered through the organization that provides ACT tests. While ACT tests are geared to determine if a student is adequately prepared for college, ACT WorkKeys is a test to gauge skills sought by industries and trades. 

The WorkKeys program offers classes aimed at teaching more of those technical skills. 

Career and Technical Education director Melissa Stiffler asked the board to add three of those classes to the curriculum, in science, math and English. She noted as an example that students who go to work in many trades, particularly wind technology, need high-level math skills but they are not the same math skills (think: algebra) needed for college-bound students. 

The classes will count toward graduation requirements. 

The district offers students an opportunity to take both the ACT and the WorkKeys test for free as juniors. 

Most IHS juniors score a 4 in most areas of the WorkKeys test, she said. Area companies, such as B&W Trailer Hitches, require at least a 5.

IN OTHER news, the board:

Learned how the annual Field Day will be a little different this year because of coronavirus restrictions. Instead of traditional games including relay races, bounce houses, and tug-of-war, students will take hikes on the Lehigh Trail System. Smaller groups of students will go on hikes over the course of this week. The hope is to increase physical activity while also introducing students to the trails.

Heard a report on construction projects. Windows and doors were installed at the science center. Foundation work continues on the elementary school. Work will begin on installing new HVAC equipment May 24. 

Approved new language to the agreement with ANW Cooperative, which provides services for children with special needs, including speech, hearing and physical therapies. The new language says that any district that wants to leave the cooperative should pay all legal costs associated with such a move.

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