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Pre-K programs can impact kids for life

The Brunswick News

Editorial | Teachers introduce academics and skills

A new summer pilot project for at risk pre-kindergarten children established by a nonprofit organization could have a long-term impact in meeting a vital need for young children. 

The Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation will provide between $30,000 and $40,000 to fund the three week program, Leap into K in July. In partnership, the Glynn County School System will provide classroom space and lunch at the host site, Goodyear Elementary School.

In 1992, system officials took a step well ahead of its time — providing two full-year, preschool classes with the same goals. To put that initiative into perspective, even a few years later some state legislatures throughout the nation were trying to prevent the implementation of full-day kindergarten. Lawmakers argued that kindergarten is nothing more than kids having fun on the playground.

Such a contention was based on indifference and even ignorance. For the most part, fortunately, more people now understand that preschool instruction is essential in preparing children for K-12 education. 

The school system serves more than 400 children in pre-k classes, but officials recognize there are some students in need who don’t receive the available services. The pilot effort will serve 36 children to help them properly prepare for kindergarten. 

As The Brunswick News writer Anna Hall reported last week, the Foundation’s President and CEO, Valerie Hepburn, pointed out the potentially lifelong challenges that such children can face without the early skills they need.  Without evidence-based design and a proven curriculum, Hepburn said, Leaping into K “has the potential to be that game changer for children who haven’t had the benefit of significant family support and robust pre-k experiences.”

Community residents who have not visited such classes might be surprised by the academics and the skills the children’s teachers introduce to them. They learn to count and can recognize letters and colors and much more. The children do get many opportunities to play as socialization is a key component they will need as they move to the next grade.

A 9-month school year is an enormous period of time as a 4-year-old transitions to age 5. Such growth can be almost like magic. Many educators agree that expectations for even the youngest children have evolved. Kindergarten students are expected to master standards that once were targeted at first-graders.

Similar endeavors from other nonprofit, private and public sectors in Glynn County could help the system reach more at-risk kids who need them the most.