Saugerties pre-K program off to a good start

(Photos by Melena Makris)

The Saugerties pre-kindergarten program at Mt. Marion and Cahill elementary schools has been under way for a little over a month, and school officials think it’s been a great addition. “Pre-kindergarten is off to a very successful start,” reported Mt. Marion principal Carole Kelder. “It is my hope that we will not only be able to continue, but I would love to see it expand.”

A $161,682 grant through the state Education Department funds the program from its January opening through the remainder of the present school year. Students are attending a full day of school, with a 16-student class of four-year olds at the Mt. Marion and Cahill elementary schools. Cahill will also house a 14-student class for three-year olds. The Mt. Marion program will be run by the Children’s Workshop, a daycare center in Twin Maples Plaza. The Cahill program will be run by Head Start.

Kelder thought the program was off to a very smooth start. “I was amazed at how well the transition for the pre-K students, our current students, and our staff went,” she said. The program beginning was bumped from January 16 to the 18th because of snow days. “The first two days were half-days, and then the following Monday, students came for full days. Most students were very excited to be here. I really don’t think we had any students that cried or were upset when they said goodbye.”

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Pre-K students aren’t using regular district transportation. To avoid traffic issues, their day begins a half-hour earlier than it does for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, allowing parents and guardians to make the drop off before buses arrive.

“The teacher and teaching assistant greet the students in the front lobby, and then proceed down to their classroom,” said Kelder. “Within two or three days, the students were walking in a line like little ducklings behind their teacher. In most instances, and it just happened to work out this way. Pre-K students move through the hall before current students arrive, or when they are already in class. The gymnasium, something they use every day, is right next door to the pre-K class for easy access. However, the older students love to see the pre-K students as they pass by their classrooms.”

The pre-K students have quickly become a part of their school’s larger community, and by all accounts they’re making the most of it. “I am completely impressed with how well they have acclimated to the building and the structure of their day,” said Kelder. “They seem to have made themselves at home, which is exactly what we wanted them to do.”

Students use the gymnasium just about every day for play and exercise. In January, they joined the rest of the student body for an assembly, and some pre-K students are participating in our annual PARP (Pick A Reading Partner) Program. “They have fun learning all about the weather, letters, colors, numbers, and enjoy sensory play,” said Kelder.

Kelder said the pre-K program has also been praised by parents. “I’d asked a group of parents who were waiting for their children at the end of the day how they thought things were going,” Kelder said. “The response was overwhelming. Parents were saying that they couldn’t be happier.”

One parent said that her daughter comes home and sings the songs they are learning in class for hours. A father told Kelder that this was a great opportunity for his daughter. The cost of a pre-K program is more than $800 a month, which his family could not afford. Yet another parent said that her son gets upset on snow days when he can’t come to school.”

Will the program continues in 2018-19? School officials are hopeful it will remain. “It has been well received by the families of our community,” said Kelder. “I believe that it is a great opportunity for our incoming students.”

In touting pre-K last December, schools superintendent Seth Turner recalled his own early experience, not as a student but as a volunteer. “When I was eleven years old, I volunteered at a preschool program, and my mother was the secretary at Saratoga County Head Start,” Turner said. “I saw firsthand how pre-K classes prepare students and provide long-lasting benefits.”

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