To The Daily Sun,
An open letter to the members of the Laconia School Board.
Life can sometimes be ironic in many ways. Just (the other day), I began teaching my unit on ecosystems in my fifth-grade science class. I began with having the students list as many systems as they could possibly think of.
Of course, the school system made the list. Because every student in the room is part of that particular system, we decided to delve deeper and list all the sub systems that make up that all important larger system that we call education. I asked students if they were part of the school system at birth, and of course all students agreed unanimously, that no they were not in the system until kindergarten. When asked again to contemplate where a child enters that school system, it took a little probing before students could come up with the word preschool.
Once the entire system was written out on the board starting with preschool, all the way through graduate school, I began to erase just one part of that system, asking the class how this would affect the school system at large. Of course, when middle school was erased, the kids laughed, stating that there is no way the system could work if kids went from elementary school directly to high school. I of course laughed along with them.
However, when I erased preschool, some of the kids told me that the system could still function. I began telling them of stories that I had heard told to me by my colleagues who have taught kindergarteners for numerous years. When kids are entering the school systems having no letter recognition or never having heard a book read aloud to them, the community at large suffers. These children are starting off so far behind where we as teachers and educated adults know they need to be.
It saddens me that with all that we as educators know about early childhood development and the capacity of the brain very early on, that we would even consider dissolving programs that offer kids the chance to start the education system with a strong foundation.
I myself grew up in Laconia, attending Jack & Jill Nursery School for my earliest years of education. Sadly, this private business closed its doors within the past several years, meaning that fewer options for an all-important strong beginning were now available to parents. St. James, yet another early childhood preschool, also recently closed, again, leaving parents who see the value of preschool, without options to academically nurture their children early on.
Our local schools, knowing the value of reaching kids earlier to decrease the learning gaps of toddlers, have tried to start up preschool programs within the walls of our public elementary schools. Though intentions are usually good, most of these preschools rosters rely on servicing only at-risk students who are already severely developmentally delayed. Any additional openings are filled using an open lottery. It seems mind blowing to me that we are willing to gamble on something as crucial as early childhood education when we have fought to keep gambling out of New Hampshire for so long.
If you do some research, neighboring states such as Massachusetts and Connecticut have started to implement free preschools in all public schools, ensuring that all the children in their communities are getting the strongest possible foundation to their early learning and development.
This, of course, requires a great deal of funding and I by no means am proposing this. However, to close the doors on the Huot Childhood Development Center is not the answer either. I have four children, three of which attended the Huot Center and benefited from the loving care and early learning that they were provided.
The center played a huge role in immersing my three oldest daughters into books, imaginative play, early math skills, and much needed social skills. My wife and I loved the staff and appreciated the daily feedback that we would receive specific to how our child's day went. We loved that our children were part of something even bigger than their own development too. Knowing that high school kids were being instructed how to teach young children was exciting to me as an educator of 17 years.
My girls, though all uniquely different, loved the preschool at the Huot Center. The success and popularity of this program stretches to other communities as well, being regarded as the best there is in early development for children. Because of this wide success and overwhelming need for top notch care, parent's biggest concern is that there will be room for their child when the time comes. I myself called the center to put my son on the list when he was only 1 year old. That's three years before he could officially attend.
I'm not alone when I say it would be such an injustice to close the doors on such a hugely successful and crucial part of the Laconia system. Countless people have raised an eye when I tell them we live in Laconia and that my children attend the public schools there. I have always supported the decisions that have been made in Laconia regarding the education of its children, but this decision, to close the doors of the Huot Center, would be a huge mistake. The Huot Center, and all the programs offered within those walls, is one of the things that makes Laconia great.
I realize budgetary cuts must sometimes be made. However, these decisions have a huge impact on the children in our care. I ask that Laconia School Board members strongly reconsider the choice to close the doors of the Huot Childhood Development Center. So many eager young minds, not yet mature enough to write to you, are also hoping that you make the right decision.