LACONIA — Preparations for a pilot program for a four-hour pre-school are nearly compete at the Pleasant Street School.
The program, said Principal Dave Levesque, will be the first pre-school program in Laconia that doesn't target special needs students, who are entitled to pre-school services under a federal Title 1 grant, and the only one this year that will serve children without special needs. It is funded partially through the School District and partially through a state grant.
"We want to get young students in our building earlier," he said.
Levesque said the class, which will be taught by Kiersten Foster, will be offered first to four-year old children who have older siblings in the building. If there is any additional room for the 12 to 16 projected students, he said it will be offered next to residents in the catchment area for Pleasant Street School. It will meet from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and parents will have to provide transportation for their children.
Levesque said the goal is to have this program running by November 1 and to expand 4-hour pre-school to the entire district within the next three years.
"It's an academic curriculum with academic play," said Foster, who is originally from Maine and who came to the School District from Lakes Region Community Services. She said all children are screened in the same way kindergarten students are screened.
She said she plans on having an assistant because they want to keep the student-teacher ratio low. While working with the school to set up the program, Foster has also been helping in the other grades and has made friends with those children as well.
The classroom Levesque set aside for the program is ideal in his mind because it has an exit directly on to the playground, has it's own bathroom, and is relatively self-contained yet near the kindergarten classrooms.
He said the truly unique portion of the Pleasant Street School pre-K program is that it is a parent- and community-based and part of the School District.
"At least once a month our plan is to have a parent activity from 1 to 2:30 p.m. that involves local community service agencies," said Levesque. "Another part of our program is to have parents connect monthly."
He said the School District wants to help parents give their children the things they need at home and that's why the community-family portion is embedded in the program.
"We believe if parents are invested early (in their children's education) that they will continue to be invested," Levesque said. "We want them ready for kindergarten."
"We want all of them at parades and assemblies other school and community events," he said.
The School District reached out to parents yesterday through letters in the "Friday folder" that goes to all Pleasant Street School parents and posters have been placed throughout the city.
Anyone who is interested in enrolling their 4-year olds in this program should call Pleasant Street School at 524-2168.
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