After a year-and-a-half of hard work and dedication to early childhood education, Seymour Community School Corp.’s first public preschool has earned Level 3 accreditation from the state.

The designation comes from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Paths to QUALITY program and is good news for local families and the community, education officials said.

Seymour G.R.A.D.S. Preschool is housed at Seymour-Redding Elementary School and serves 65 students ages 3 and 4, including 25 students with special needs.

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The program’s aim is for young children to “Get Ready And Develop Skills” for kindergarten.

“We are very proud of the opportunities, services and early interventions our preschool program brings to our students,” said Mika Ahlbrand, director of special education at Seymour Community Schools.

The Seymour G.R.A.D.S. Preschool program was created using grant money from the Jackson County Education Coalition. The first class graduated last spring. The main purpose behind the program was to provide an option for low-income families to send their children to a high-quality preschool.

The Level 3 rating means the program has met state health and safety standards, offers a learning environment that promotes a child’s growth and development and uses planned curriculum that includes appropriate activities and opportunities that help prepare children for kindergarten.

There is only one quality rating above Level 3 in the Paths to QUALITY program, and that is national accreditation.

“This is a multiyear process, and we plan to begin working on this accreditation soon,” Ahlbrand said.

Jackson County has a total of 12 Level 3 Paths to QUALITY accredited preschool sites at area churches, day cares and public schools.

The Seymour G.R.A.D.S. Preschool does not participate in the state-funded On My Way Pre-K program, which provides vouchers to low-income families to send their children to preschool.

The state pilot program is just for four year olds and requires students to attend a minimum of 450 hours per year.

“In order for our 4-year-old program to meet that requirement, they would have to go every day, which means we would have to cut our 3-year-old program,” Ahlbrand said.

Seymour G.R.A.D.S. Preschool teacher Amanda Easton said having many choices available for preschool is better than having just a few.

“This program has given families another option to choose from when deciding on preschool for their child,” she said. “There is a need in the community for more opportunities so that young children can get a valuable early childhood education experience.”

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.