BUCKHANNON— Upshur County will see the addition of five new pre-k classrooms in the 2019-20 school year. Each class will accommodate 20 students under the instruction of a West Virginia Department of Education certified teacher. Most of these pre-k teachers will have early childhood specializations and each class will also have an aide with WVDE Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher certification.
Superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus explained that the Upshur County Board of Education currently has a great partnership with local daycare centers for blended classrooms. However, those programs are not required to employ certified teachers and are not always conveniently located for many people living on the outskirts of the county. Dr. Stankus stated, “What we’re really focused on is bringing these young children to their home schools and keeping them in their community.”
Dr. Stankus reported, “According to our calculations, there’s about 30% of the 4-year-old population who we’re not educating. So, whether they’re at home or with grandparents or whatever the case, about one out of every three 4-year-olds are not coming to school.” They believe there are enough children to justify expanding these essential services. Upshur county schools will continue to partner with the daycares in other ways to benefit children. Dr. Stankus added that they are currently working to establish after school programs in every elementary school, with the goal of helping working families in the next school year. In the event there aren’t enough students to warrant an afterschool program at a particular school, they hope to establish a plan for transporting those students in need to another location. “If it’s not in the school, then we will have another place they can go and be bussed there so families will have that option,” said Dr. Stankus.
Buckhannon Academy Elementary School will be getting two new pre-k classrooms this fall. Teacher Kelley McNeish stated, “I’m super excited because I also have a child that will be starting pre-school.” McNeish explained that it is very fundamental for preschoolers to acquire skills like socialization and learning how to function in a group, prior to coming to kindergarten. McNeish added, “The fact that it’s going to be taught inside the school building is so exciting because they can get comfortable within the building.”
A new pre-k classroom will be established at Union Elementary School and French Creek Elementary School’s existing pilot project will become a fully functioning pre-k classroom as well.
The final destination for ribbon cutting ceremonies on Monday was Hodgesville Elementary School. Dr. Stankus proudly announced, “This is our new build. We have a $2.2 million grant from the School Building Authority to build a new pre-k here at Hodgesville.” They will be meeting with the architect Tuesday and tentatively plan to build the new classroom onto the front of the school. Dr. Stankus noted that the entire school will benefit from the new addition by receiving updated HVAC, ventilation, sprinkler and security systems throughout the building, thereby improving the overall safety and air quality for everyone at the school.
Principal Janet Phillips believes the convenience of the new pre-k addition at Hodgesville will encourage more parents to enroll their children because they won’t have to travel to town.
Phillips stated, “The biggest benefit is going to be that they get to know our school, our procedures, our routines at an early age.” With the current arrangement of pre-k being in town, it limits the ability for preschoolers to participate in special things their older siblings may be doing at the school. Phillips acknowledged that important benefit and said, “We will be able to include them in all of our special activities, where right now it’s really hard to include them in anything that we do.”
Although they haven’t broke ground at Hodgesville Elementary yet, Dr. Stankus assured, “We are going to sign the kids up and we’re gonna start the program regardless. We will start our program this fall, I’ve been adamant about that.”
Registration for Pre-k and kindergarten will be held Thursday, Mar. 14, from 1-6 p.m. at The Buckhannon Event Center, which is located at the new armory on Brushy Fork Road. Please contact Lori Woods at 304-472-5480, ext. 1043 with any questions.