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NCSD Offers Accredited Early Childhood Education

Preschool provides a strong foundation for early literacy skills.

Preschool provides a strong foundation for early literacy skills.

The day starts on a colorful rug adorned by the ABCs and various shapes. Within a few minutes, at least three tiny voices have piped up proclaiming their need to “go potty.” For preschool teacher, Kayla Park, this is a typical day.

Introducing the structure of a classroom to young children, some of them barely out of diapers, can be a challenge. Teachers like Ms. Park rise to the challenge in the 12 public schools that offer preschool in the Natrona County School District – preschools that have recently been re-accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

“Our goal is to help as many children as we can,” said Dr. Emily King, NCSD Preschool Coordinator. “With our federal funding, our responsibility is to truly identify the children that need it the most and might not otherwise have the opportunity to enroll in a private preschool.”

Nearly 300 children in Natrona County benefit from the district’s preschool program. NCSD receives TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funds and some Title I money to run the preschools. All children who are accepted into the program are screened for developmental delays so that teachers may pinpoint areas that need more attention.

With 14 certified teachers leading the preschoolers each day, children are given a jump-start on their education.

“The intention of preschool is to provide and strengthen early language skills for three- and four-year-olds,” explains King. “We take children who are potentially at-risk and give them a chance to succeed in school immediately.”

The children who have attended a district preschool are, in fact, seeing success. Dr. King says kindergarten teachers repeatedly say they can tell what kids have been through preschool. It’s evident in their language and early literacy skills and often in their social skills. Some children begin preschool as non-English speakers or English delayed. Within a few weeks, they are socializing with their peers and beginning to pick up on new words.

It’s continued evidence like this that earned NCSD’s program the NAEYC accreditation. The district’s pre-K teachers, along with Dr. King and other leadership, began working on the arduous accreditation process three years ago.

The NAEYC website explains accreditation: “NAEYC Accreditation represents the mark of quality in early childhood education. NAEYC Accreditation began in 1985 with the goal of providing an accrediting system that would raise the level of early childhood programs.”

NCSD’s program is among some 6,500 programs nationwide that can call itself NAEYC accredited. Being an accredited program means improved standards for the overall program built by a team of teachers, administrators and families working together to improve the quality for children.

Preschool classes run every day for half days. Some schools offer a morning and an afternoon class. The program is available for three- and four-year-olds who are potty trained. Some income guidelines may apply in some instances. For more information on NCSD’s preschool program, please contact Dr. Emily King at (307) 253-5200.

By Shauna VanderLinden
NCSD Communication Specialist

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