GALLIA COUNTY — Gallia County Local Schools embarked on a new program this year in an attempt to integrate preschool facilities into its current elementary school programs and discussed their current status with the public.
According to Scott West, Gallia Local School District’s coordinator of preschool, virtual options and testing, the district has roughly 156 students in the preschool programs and has space to fill for 160. According to Gallia Local School District officials and Head Start program representatives, they began discussing integrating preschool initiatives back in February.
Vinton, Addaville, Hannan Trace and Southwestern Elementary all enacted their preschool programs at the beginning of the current school year. Head Start serves Head Start children within the preschools, according to local Head Start Director Dawn Hall, as part of a collaboration between the local school district and Head Start program.
“At each site, there are two classrooms. There is a Gallia teacher in one classroom and one in the other,” said West. “Head Start has provided a co-teacher that moves between both classrooms.”
Head Start has also provided teaching assistants who stay in the classrooms and Gallia Local Schools have also provided teaching assistants. West said there are five staff members designated to the preschool programs at each site. According to West, Head Start children and Gallia Local Schools children are only identified differently for cases of funding. They receive the same services, however.
“It’s really a unique partnership,” said Gallia Local School District Superintendent Jude Meyers. “It’s a creative partnership and collaboration. Head Start follows federal guidelines and we follow state guidelines. We’ve meshed this opportunity together to really best serve the interests of the kids in Gallia County. I think this partnership is cutting edge and in-line with what out governor has asked us to do with shared services and collaboration. We take strength with strength and put it together to become stronger. We would rather be a leader instead of a follower.”
According to Superintendent of the Athens-Meigs Educational Service Center Rick Edwards, this may be one of the first programs enacted like this in southeast Ohio.
According to the four individuals, preschool often helps children acquire skills to be prepared for kindergarten programs. Students will potentially excel better in academic progress because of having become accustomed to a learning environment where the preschool and kindergarten programs are both present in the same facility. The academic officials also stressed that preschool was not just a daycare program, but that students often needed to have more advanced skills before entering kindergarten. According Edwards earlier in the year, the kindergarten of today is different than the kindergarten of 20 years ago. Children now are often expected to already have an understanding of letters and colors as they embark in their first years of elementary education.
So far, Gallia Local Schools and Head Start officials are happy with the progress of their collaborative program. However, they also say they may need another two years of progress to fully evaluate the benefits of the program.
“We have collaborated and we are meshing state regulations along with federal performance standards into a unique effort I have not seen somewhere else,” Hall said. “It’s definitely a test run year.”
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.