Getting a Head Start at Fairland

Published 12:16 pm Monday, October 20, 2008

ROME TOWNSHIP — It was a spontaneous gift and one she seemed most proud of — that purple Play Doh “ice cream cone” Candy Pittman shared with a classmate Thursday morning.

It looked more like fun than learning. But it was both and that’s the whole point of the preschool that started this past week at Fairland East Elementary. It was a first for the Proctorville area school district and is done in conjunction with the Head Start program of the CAO. A week ago a comparable preschool started at the Chesapeake District.

Right now, there are 26 children, ages 4 and 5, but the program can take an enrollment of up to 40.

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“Our goal is for every child to have the preschool experience,” Fairland East principal Margaret Keeney said. “We have become so academic at kindergarten. They need the developmental level. Before they go to pencil and paper, they need to develop their fine motor skills to strengthen those little hands to even hold a pencil.”

An upgrading of the educational standards the state sets has pushed up the learning schedules for children, Keeney says. Now schools must start introducing academics at the kindergarten level.

“If we don’t start doing academics in kindergarten, the kids aren’t ready,” Keeney said. “A lot of people didn’t think development was that important. It was the key.”

Getting the preschool age students ready for a successful school career is one of the missions of this program that includes both academics and socialization. The success of these kinds of two-fold approaches used in a variety of Head Start programs across the country has hit the national radar.

The National Institute for Early Education Research reports that in preschool children get an opportunity to learn how to get along with each other, as well as getting an introduction to math and language basics.

But just as important is to show the children that learning is fun and to sustain that throughout public school. That’s how Scott Combs, one of the new preschool teachers at Fairland, sees it.

As Haley Brewer methodically and thoughtfully stacked blocks into a kid-sized skyscraper, Combs watched from the sidelines encouraging her on. When the creation reached its pinnacle Combs was quick to slap fives with the shy brunette.

“You get to build the foundation for them to like or dislike school,” Combs said. “If you give them a positive experience, it will carry onto kindergarten. I got into this to get them started early in learning. I have heard teachers with older kids say the kids don’t care.”

Anyone interested in enrolling a child in the program can contact Kristen Lockhart at (740) 886-3125.