Brandy Shumway

The Grand County School District will be offering another preschool option for students in Grand County next school year. The district is currently accepting applications for the 2014-2015 school year for children four years old.

Currently, GCSD sponsors two preschool options for Grand County students: the C.R. Sundwall Preschool and UPSTART, which is a computer-based preschool. The Sundwall Preschool targets students with developmental disabilities. Brandy Shumway, the Director of Special Education for GCSD, said the school district conducted a study in 2013 with kindergartners and found many children were not prepared for kindergarten. The district looked to create a program it could offer to students without disabilities, and one that was more accessible.

“We have found through our study with the kindergartners that when our students are coming in, they are not prepared,” Shumway said. “If the students could have some school readiness skills, the teachers could take off running. We want to get a hold of students that are unable to go to preschool, so that kids can be included even if they can’t afford it.”

The study, conducted during the 2013-2014 school year on kindergartners at Helen M. Knight Elementary School (HMK), looked at 123 students at the beginning of the school year and again halfway through the year. The study measured if the students were considered to be at grade-level, below grade-level, or well below grade-level expectations.

According to the study, of the 123 students at the beginning of the school year, 50 students – or 41 percent – were well below grade-level expectations. Of those 50 students, 31 had no preschool experience prior to entering kindergarten. Seven of those students were also immigrant students with English as their second language. Only 46 of the students were considered to be at grade level expectations.

When the study was conducted again at the halfway point of the school year, 82 of the students were considered to be at grade level expectations. Of those 82 students, 32 percent were from the no preschool experience prior to kindergarten group.

Shumway said the study showed that students were not prepared for school when they started at the beginning of the year, and many of the students just needed time to catch up to being on grade level.

“Gains occurred because of just exposure to education,” she said. “Exposure really makes a big difference.”

Shumway said the GCSD is working to be proactive when working with entering kindergarten students.

“Our main concern is when a kid starts school, we react to their inability to perform,” she said. “And what we are trying to do is be proactive by providing an experience where kids can be ready for school when they step in. Then if they start showing learning issues later, we know they were prepared and so more needs to be done.”

Shumway said improved school readiness can help students, not just in the immediate, but also over the long term.

“Unprepared students tend to fall further and further behind as time goes on,” she said. “Kids also tend to have a decreased rate in lifestyle as they go on such as crime, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and more. School readiness reflects this and really prevents students from going down a road they don’t have to.”

Shumway also said students with learning disabilities who were not prepared for kindergarten tend to have a more difficult time exiting special education services. According to research conducted by the district for the preschool study, children who are better prepared for kindergarten exit special education at higher rates.

“Students with disabilities have a hard time exiting out of special-ed,” she said. “Only about 5-to-10 percent are declassified and transferred to general education. We are hoping we can catch students early and identify problems sooner.”

There has been some concern as to whether the preschool will work in the community and how the dynamics between the GCSD and other private preschool providers would work, Shumway said

“When we first started last year, there was concern if this would work in our town,” she said. “Our intention is not to provide preschool to students who can afford it. We intend to provide services to students that can’t afford preschool and we shouldn’t affect current providers in town because these students wouldn’t attend those providers anyway.”

GCSD superintendent Scott L. Crane said the district created the preschool to help reach students who may be missed by the private preschools in the area.

“We have wonderful preschools in Moab, but there are some kids that just can’t go,” he said. “Sometimes kids don’t have the opportunity to participate and receive the basic fundamental skills needed to be successful. We want to help these other groups in order to fill that gap.”

Tiffani Allred, a Moab resident and mother to two, said she was looking for preschool options for her 3-year-old, and thinks the GCSD alternative to private preschools could be beneficial to the community.

“I’ve considered putting my daughter in a daycare/preschool for the last six months or so only because I feel like she needs interaction with children around her age. I think it would be very beneficial for her to get a head start on learning how to play with others and learn with others in a controlled environment while also having fun and feeling like a ‘big girl,’” Allred said. “I think it would be great for our community. As far as I know, there aren’t very many options other than a day care or the Montessori school, which I know my family cannot afford, and we don’t qualify for assistance either.”

While the preschool program is being created to target students who cannot afford to attend the private preschools already available in the Moab area, there will be slots available for students that can afford preschool. The monthly cost of the preschool is free to those students who qualify based on income or having a disability. Income qualifications are determined by whether students or their siblings qualify for free or reduced school lunch. Other students will pay a monthly rate of $100.

The preschool will be located next to the Sundwall Preschool, at 190 E. 100 North, and will offer two different sessions Tuesday through Friday. The morning session will run 8:30 to 11 a.m. and the afternoon session 12:30 to 3 p.m.

Shumway said the class sizes will be limited to allow for smaller student-to-teacher ratios.

“Our goal is to have no more than nine students to every adult,” she said. “We will have 18 to 20 students with two adults in the classroom. There will also be a component of parent involvement.”

Programming at the preschool will be prepared following Utah Early Childhood Core Standards, Shumway said.

Crane also said students will be tracked during their time at the preschool and into kindergarten to evaluate if the program is successful.

“We are going to use the pre-kindergarten standards and will give each student a pre-test and post-test to see how they do over the year,” he said. “We will also track them at kindergarten and see if they are coming with the correct skills. The pre-test will be an evaluation of where the student is when they enter preschool and the post-test will show how far they have come.”

The GCSD is currently accepting registration for the 2014-2015 school year. Students can be signed up at HMK in the K-3 office. Parents will need to bring the student’s birth certificate and immunizations records as well as fill out a packet. There is a $35 registration fee for students that do not qualify for free or reduced school lunch.

GCSD will also conduct an informational meeting on Tuesday, May 13 at 6 p.m., for local agencies and preschool providers. The meeting will take place at school district office, 264 S. 400 East.

GCSD accepting applications for new preschool option

“We have wonderful preschools in Moab, but there are some kids that just can’t go. Sometimes kids don’t have the opportunity to participate and receive the basic fundamental skills needed to be successful. We want to help these other groups in order to fill that gap.”