Walking into Brownstown Elementary School for the first time, a kindergartner could feel overwhelmed by the size of the building and the number of older kids and staff members.
Enrolling in the new preschool class, however, could help the child make a smooth transition.
They will know their way around the school and see peers and staff members they know. Plus, they will gain some knowledge and be a little bit ahead of students who didn’t go through preschool.
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“It’s just being able to provide them with a few more familiar faces, making them feel at home, making them feel comfortable before you have the stress of an academic kindergarten,” said preschool teacher Bethany Schlatterer.
Another scenario involves a parent finding themselves in a jam because they have to be at work and don’t have someone to take care of their child.
The new Kids Klub before- and after-school program is now an option.
There, students in preschool through age 13 can do homework, play, make crafts and enjoy time with other students and the teacher.
“The parents love it because they know that (their children) are getting taken care of, and in the afternoon, they get a snack and homework done, and they are always getting watched over while (their parents) are working,” said site coordinator Autumn Cooley.
“We’re open unless school is closed, so they are not like, ‘I need a babysitter.’ They know they can come back on us and know we’re here for them,” she said. “We’re open all of the time. You can come any time. I had parents last year (at another school) come the last couple weeks of school because their schedule changed, and that’s perfectly fine. That’s what we’re here for.”
Child Care Network oversees both programs. The Seymour-based 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation focuses on improving the lives of children in Jackson County.
The preschool is one of 13 state-certified Level 3 Paths to QUALITY providers in Jackson County.
It’s a part of On My Way Pre-K, which offers state-funded vouchers to qualifying low-income families to send their 4-year-olds to a preschool of their choice. The program has been in Jackson County since 2015.
Four students are enrolled in the new preschool, which started Aug. 28.
The class meets weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon.
According to Paths to QUALITY guidelines, a third of the time is free choice for the students. The rest of the time is spent working on such things as name recognition and writing their name and learning colors, letters, sounds, numbers, months and days of the week.
Schlatterer said the goal is to prepare the kids for kindergarten. She said nearly 30 kids per year aren’t quite where they need to be to jump into kindergarten, so that’s where the preschool comes into play.
“The program started here at the school to hopefully try and find those 30 kids, the kids who are not having any exposure to preschool, and get them exposed to some kind of learning before they come here and it’s almost like a shock,” she said. “Our goal is just to kind of prepare the kids for what to expect next year.”
By being around a few kids their age, she said the social aspect will help once they enter a larger classroom next school year.
“My rules in my classroom are be kind, be loving, be safe,” she said. “If I can produce kids this year that are kind, loving and safe, then they will be ready to go down to kindergarten and start all of the rigors of the academic year.”
The hope is to increase the numbers in the preschool class next school year so there can be morning and afternoon sessions.
For several years, Kids Klub has been offered at all five Seymour Community Schools elementary school buildings and Immanuel Lutheran School.
Starting Aug. 8 for the first time in Brownstown, Kids Klub currently has four kids attending the morning session — 6 to 8 a.m. — and nine in the afternoon — 3 to 6 p.m.
There is a $25 registration fee per family. Then there are rates based on if a child attends only morning, only afternoon or both, and they vary based on the number of days per week.
Cooley said the morning session consists of free play, where kids can participate in activities on their own, relax or do homework.
In the afternoon, a snack is offered before there is quiet time, homework time, an activity and free play. Cooley can choose an activity from the Child Care Network binder or come up with one on her own.
“For me, I tend to do a craft at least two or three times a week just so they are not just free playing. They actually have activities that they are doing,” she said.
First-grader Waylon Ferguson said he likes attending the morning and afternoon sessions to paint, read books, play with the kitchen set and play Pokemon.
Kindergartner Kimmie Prewitt, who just goes in the morning, said she also likes painting and Pokemon. She likes the light table, too.
Being involved in the program also builds the kids’ social skills, Cooley said.
“They interact more with different age groups,” she said. “They understand all grade levels, and they get to play and have that structured and nonstructured play time that they might or might not get at home.”
Cooley said she likes Kids Klub because she is able to interact with different ages.
“Getting to know them and seeing their differences and getting to see how they play and interact, that’s probably my favorite part,” she said.
Kate Garrity, executive director of Child Care Network, said the organization is excited to offer the preschool and Kids Club in Brownstown this school year.
At first, she said they told parents they really wanted to offer both programs. Then when they turned it into, “Hey, we’re doing this,” the interest grew.
“The phone calls and emails started pouring in,” Garrity said. “I really feel next year, we won’t have a problem filling those spots.”
For information about services provided by Child Care Network, including the preschool and Kids Klub at Brownstown Elementary School, call 812-524-2585 or visit childcarenetworkinc.org.