(Pre)school Is In Session

Published 12:14 pm Tuesday, October 7, 2008

By Benita Heath

The Tribune

CHESAPEAKE — Monday morning meant picture time. And Tina and John Casto were ready with camera poised as daughter, Abigail Casto, 4, posed prettily on the steps of the modular classroom for her first day of school.

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Abigail wasn’t the only one starting something new. Monday was also the start for the preschool program at the Chesapeake School District in the village’s Community Center on State Route 7. Operated as a joint venture between Chesapeake and the Ironton-Lawrence County CAO, the program offers learning for 3, 4 and 5 year-olds in a relaxed atmosphere.

Its goal is to give these youngsters the background that will make them more prepared when they enter kindergarten.

“Children need early childhood education to prepare them with preschool readiness skills … to prepare them for what is coming next,” Sharon Daniels, Head Start director for CAO, said. “Kindergarten teachers say they are really ready, those who have come through the program.”

Using a curriculum developed by the Ohio Department of Education, the Chesapeake preschool is operated by the CAO, which is under contract with the Chesapeake district. CAO handles the hiring of two teachers and two aides.

Funding came from an ODE grant the school district was awarded.

Until this school year, only Ironton had a preschool program, which it started 15 years ago.

Now, programs are spreading throughout Lawrence County.

A fact that pleases Abigail’s parents.

“This is to get a head start on education and to have the ability to be with other children,” Tina Casto said. “She’s an only child.”

The two-classroom unit, geared for 40 children, is designed to offer a constant learning atmosphere, Daniels said. Each room is divided into areas informally dedicated to specific tasks to introduce or augment skills of the children. Anything from rudimentary math to language to computer. There is even a mock mini-house, where the children can pretend their going through the paces they see their parents do at home.

“Research shows by pretending what mommy and daddy do at home children learn through dramatic pretend play,” Daniels said.

Even a sandbox has educational value.

“It’s getting those fingers ready to hold pencils for kindergarten,” she said. “And this is a literacy-enriched environment. Anywhere you look you can see some writing.”

Snack time and lunch expand the children’s abilities as well as drinks and food are served family-style with each child passing pitchers and plates.

“To take turns (is a way) to learn fine motor skills and social skills and there is a lot of language happening in a relaxed atmosphere,” Daniels said.

The preschool program runs from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. However, the center also offers a wrap around child care from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fees for the program are on a sliding scale based on a family’s income.

“Research tells us a lot about the skills and knowledge children need to be successful in school,” Dr. Scott Howard, Chesapeake superintendent, said. “Children attending pre-school learn vocabulary, letter recognition and the sounds of letters, in addition to social factors that impact their success even in high school. Our goal is to ensure that all students in the Chesapeake school district have a preschool experience before entering kindergarten.

For more information on the preschool or day care, contact (740) 867-4700.