Sioux Center Community Schools push for preschool for all 4-year-olds
SIOUX CENTER, Iowa (KTIV) -
Summertime doesn't usually mean school time for students.
But, the concern that parents and educators have for their kids is year-round.
That's easy to see in a major effort, in Sioux Center, Iowa, to enroll 100% of 4-year-olds in the district in preschool.
The district has preschools operating right now. In fact, more than 180 preschoolers are enrolled. But, that's only about 80% of the 4-year-olds in the district.
School officials said there isn't enough space to handle 100%. That's why the school district has partnered with the city of Sioux Center, Dordt College, and a local hospital, to create more educational opportunities for kids.
By January 2015, the Sioux Center Community School District is hoping to have the new building up and running next to one of the preschools that's already operating at 1070 7th Avenue NE in Sioux Center, Iowa.
"It's right next door to the existing structure and we want to create an environment where all three and four year-olds are together," said Superintendent of Sioux Center Community Schools Pat O'Donnell.
School officials said the new building will have 9 classrooms and hold about 140 students.The majority of the students in the building will be 4-year-olds while the 3-year-olds will be in the building next door.
"Our hope is that we really focus on preparing children for kindergarten. We have a disparity between the kids that are ready for kindergarten and the ones that are not," said O'Donnell.
City Manager Paul Clousing said the collaboration on the project between the school district, Dordt College, the City, and Sioux Center Community Hospital and Health Center is important because education is something people consider when moving to a new community.
"When you're looking at economic development and trying to attract business and industry to your community, that's one of the first things that's looked at, and so we've always done things hand in hand," said Clousing.
"For the community itself, there's research out there that it creates quite a bit of economic development for the community," said O'Donnell.
Students from Dordt College will get the chance to work in the classrooms for course credit.
"They'll have the pre-school and they'll have clinical experiences for their early childhood students because the location's only two blocks away," said O'Donnell.
The city said the need is definitely there and they will give the land to Sioux Center Community Schools if the project goes through.
"We are a growing community. We've grown about 30%, probably more than that, in the last 20 years," said Clousing.
By September 2013, the school district will be part of the statewide program and 4-year-olds will get to attend for free even before the new facility may be built.
Right now, the "Stepping Stones" preschool, in Sioux Center, rents space from a local church. The school district is planning on moving "Stepping Stones" into the new building.
Also, in the new building, you'll find early childhood special education integrated with the regular education program, which is run by Sioux Center Community Schools.
They also hope to move the "Head Start" into the building, and accommodate 100% of the city's 4-year-olds.
To build the new preschool, the city plans to have taxpayers vote on a new levy to pay for it. The vote is September 10th. About 5-million of the nearly $10,000,000 in bonds, that voters in the school district will be asked to approve, will go toward the preschool.
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