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Paynesville Press - Sept. 10, 2003

Preschool added due to cuts in School Readiness

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Due to state budget cuts, the School Readiness program at the Paynesville Public Schools has changed this year, switching to a preschool program for the first half of the year while targeting students who have developmental delays.

School Readiness is a program for preschoolers who need a little help because of developmental delays or delays in social skills. It gives these children an opportunity to develop skills and behaviors they will need to be successful in school.

School Readiness used to meet two days a week for two hours from September to April, but keeping that schedule proved impossible this year due to state budget cuts.

Making changes in the program became necessary when Paynesville lost 20 percent of its state funding, said principal Deb Gillman, who oversees School Readiness. Compounding the budget problems was the fact that the program ran over budget last year.

To stay within their budget restrictions this year, the program had to be cut by 50 percent, said Gillman.

But cutting the offerings in half, especially with children in such need for it, proved unpalatable. So Gillman and teacher Becki Quade approached the school board this summer about offering regular School Readiness program for half the year and offering a preschool program through Community Education for the other half.

This year, the preschool will run two days a week for two hours a day from September until January, and then School Readiness will run from January to April.

The school board was concerned with the new preschool competing with other preschool programs in the community, but the school's goal was to target kids who qualified for School Readiness, which is done via a referral from an early childhood screening. So far, the new preschool has 12 students, including seven who would qualify for School Readiness.

Because it is a public program, the preschool accepts anyone who turns four by the start of September. Currently the preschool is full, with two children on a waiting list. If eight more kids can be signed up within the next week, though, another session of preschool could be added.

Preschoolers in the program will meet twice a week for two hours a day and they will explore learning through art, music, play, and literature and they will develop cognitive, language, and social skills, said Quade.

The cost for the preschool is $60 per month. Parents (or a substitute volunteer) are expected to help in the classroom, as Quade has no assistant, in order to keep the cost down.

School Readiness, which will start in January, has a more modest fee. Next year more state budget cuts could affect School Readiness again, but Gillman hopes to find creative ways to help reduce costs so fee increases will be minimal.

For more information about the new preschool or about School Readiness, call 320-243-KIDS.

Paynesville Public Schools offer several other programs for early childhood education:


Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) gets families with children - from birth to kindergarten - involved in education. Also taught by Becki Quade, the emphasis in ECFE programs is on parental involvement and classes give parents time with their children as well as time apart, when parents can discuss parenthood while children can take part in age-appropriate activities with their peers.

ECFE classes meet once or twice per week for an hour or two. Classes include: Babblin' Babies for babies (with parents and babies staying together for the whole class); Toddlin' Twos for toddlers between 24 and 36 months; Thrivin' Threes; and Kindergarten Connection for four- and five-year-olds).

ECFE classes are available to residents of the Paynesville Area School District, and fees are charged for the classes. Enrollment for ECFE will continue until Thursday, Sept. 11. To enroll or for more information, call 320-243-5437.


Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) is for children from birth to six with diagnosed disabilities. According to teacher Sue Currens, ECSE programs are federally funded, and all ECSE services are offered free of charge to district families.

ECSE provides screenings, including in-home screenings, for babies and pre-schoolers with developmental delays (including speech problems). Children eligible for ECSE services are referred for assessments by medical professionals, by parents, or during kindergarten screening.

Children must meet the state's criteria during the assessment to be eligible for ECSE services.

Children from birth to three receive home-based services through the West Central Education District, and children turning three are transitioned into a school-based program at PAES, said Currens.

By identifying children at an early age, educators are able to provide children and their families with activities and additional help that may help a child before they enter kindergarten, according to Currens.

Paynesville's ECSE program also lost some funding this year. They have less to spend on materials, and supplies and teaching assistants times have been cut, said Currens.

For information on programs for children three or younger, call 320-352-6120. For information on programs for children three or older, call 320-243-7543.

Head Start

Head Start is a federally-funded program for income-eligible families with children from three to five years old. Youngsters with a documented developmental delay as well as foster children also qualify for the program, which is offered free of charge.

Head Start is independent of the school district, but rents a school building and uses the district's food service for breakfast and uses the elementary playground.

Under the direction of teachers Mary Mackedanz and Jill Eickhoff, Head Start students spend four half-days each week throughout the school year at the center, located on Mill Street a half block east of PAES.

Head Start uses activities to help kids develop social, reading readiness, and other skills that will help them transition to kindergarten. Transportation is provided for students and a home-based program is available for qualified children who live too far from the center for bus service or for others who may not be able to participate in a center-based program.

Children in Head Start also receive services from a nutritionist, health services, and screenings from a school nurse and from a social worker. Head Start also offers mental health services to families, disability services, and literacy services for parents.

Reach Up, Inc., which runs the local Head Start, also offers home-based programs for children from conception to age three in the form of Early Head Start. In this program, mothers and fathers work together with educators to develop programs for their children.

Head Start in Paynesville has openings for the current school year. For information, call 1-877-848-4912 or the local Head Start center can be reached at 320-243-7686.

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