Getting a jump start on kindergarten


The first day of school for kindergartners can be intimidating.

Lots of rules and expectations, new faces and new experiences.

But 5-year-old Brock Pray isn’t worried. He has already been to school this summer.

Pray was one of 15 Seymour kids who attended Jump Start Kindergarten at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School from July 15 to 26. The program also was available in Brownstown.

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"I’ve made new friends, and I’ve already learned stuff," Brock said while mastering the use of a glue stick.

The two-week program is organized and operated by Child Care Network to ease young children into a new routine before the start of the school year, which begins Thursday for Seymour Community Schools. Brownstown schools start Tuesday.

This year marked the sixth year for Jump Start Kindergarten, which is free to local families. Children are identified for the service by school officials during kindergarten registrations.

It could be the last year for the program, however, if Child Care Network is unable to secure future funding, said instructor Ashley Stahl.

Funding has been available in the past through matching grant dollars accessed by Jackson County United Way through the Indiana Association of United Ways.

Kate Garrity, executive director of Child Care Network, said she is working with United Way and the schools to evaluate the program to determine what it should look like in the future.

"If a corporate sponsor would like to step up and fund it for years to come, they can contact me to work it out," she said.

Stahl doesn’t want to see the program end because of the benefit it is to young children.

"I hope they are able to keep it going," Stahl said. "It really makes a difference in getting kids ready for kindergarten."

But enrollment has actually decreased over the years. In 2015, a total of 26 students completed Jump Start Kindergarten.

"We actually have room for up to 30, but we’ve struggled to get that many," Stahl said.

Any child entering kindergarten this fall was eligible to be in Jump Start Kindergarten, although the program is most beneficial to those children who have never attended preschool.

"We’d really like to serve more of those kids who haven’t been to preschool before," Stahl said.

Students attended for half days only but had the opportunity to experience having breakfast and lunch at school, bathroom breaks and going outside to play for recess.

Although three hours doesn’t sound like a lot of time, Stahl said it’s enough to give kids an idea of what going to school is like. That way, they won’t be as nervous on their first day.

While in the classroom, they learned important skills, like identifying and writing letters and numbers, cutting, gluing, identifying colors and shapes, counting and coloring.

Since many of the young students already had been to preschool, the lessons were a reintroduction and reinforcement, Stahl said.

Some of the day was broken into stations. The students would divide up into small groups and rotate through each station. At one table, kids played with Play-Doh, and in another area, they could build with blocks.

Those who weren’t playing spent time with Stahl or one of two instructional assistants, Kelli Moore and Marci Black.

Emmy Doerflein, 5, said going to Jump Start Kindergarten was so much fun she can’t wait to start kindergarten.

"I got to play and be with other kids, and I liked meeting my teachers," she said.

Although she could already count and write her name, Emmy said in kindergarten, she wants to learn how to read and write and do math.

"It might be hard, though," she said.

By the end of the morning, several of the youngsters were ready for a nap. But nap time is something they’ll have to learn to do without, Stahl said.

"There’s no nap time anymore in kindergarten," she said. "They’ve got too much to learn and do."

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