Cocalico pre-K program receives high marks

By on January 25, 2012

By: KIMBERLY MARSELAS Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

A pre-K program that serves children in the Cocalico School district is thriving despite the threat of state budget cuts, parents and educators told school board members Monday night.

Pre-K Counts, which serves 30 four-year-olds at Reamstown Elementary School, is in its fifth year of delivering school readiness training to children with special needs, including those from low-income families.

Children from across the district attend morning or afternoon sessions five days a week, focusing on letter and number recognition, learning through play and developing social skills.

"It was a great opportunity for us to assess and see if (our son) would be ready for kindergarten," said Dolly Youndt, who spoke at the board’s meeting with son Evan, 4, on her hip. "He’s learned much more than we expected."

Youndt said her son was born 12 weeks premature and, because of his August birthday, will be considered a young kindergartner. But he’s already become familiar with riding a school bus and can spot and sound out the alphabet.

Mother Keri Diem also credited the program with helping her daughter Payton, now 5, master computer and iPad skills.

Teacher Kelly Thompson presented the board with an overview of the program, which includes academics, a daily snack and regular parent-student workshops. Most children who participate do not qualify for the district’s extended-day kindergarten program because they have already mastered important benchmarks by the end of their preschool year, according to Principal Tabetha Haldeman.

"It’s highly sought-after," Haldeman said. "Parents really want their children to be included in the program."

Ella Musser, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said the program continues to receive high marks from the state, including an average rating of 6.26 with a 7 being the best score.

Superintendent Bruce Sensenig said he was worried about the program’s fate after its budget was trimmed this year, but state cuts did not go deep enough to "damage" Pre-K counts significantly.

In other news, the board voted to approve several purchasing and legal agreements. Among them is hiring a lawyer to negotiate a new fee structure with UGI, which delivers the district’s gas supply. Although the gas is purchased through an outside company, UGI bills Cocalico for using its pipeline. The cost is currently $2.50 per 1,000 cubic feet, but the company wants to set a new unit price of $4.50 and $6. The difference could cost the district more than $39,000 annually.

"What we’re doing is we’re trying to fight that," said business manager Sherri Stull, who added that the district would split the legal cost with 22 other districts.

The board also approved four expulsions following student discipline hearings; three students were removed for violating the district’s drug and alcohol policy while a fourth was expelled for bringing a knife to school on Jan. 11.

Sensenig and other school leaders also honored the board members in recognition of school directors appreciation month. Each board member received a photo, a framed print, cookies and a plant representing the district’s schools.

"They, to an individual, stand up for education," Sensenig said of the board members. "They do so in a time when budget cuts are being made in a severe way."

About Ephrata Review