Christopher, a first-year teacher, said that by 9 a.m., the students had learned the ABC’s of classroom behavior, how to stand in a line, how to sit with their legs crossed and what to do during story time.
“They are so loving,” Christopher said. “They had no anxiety at all. They were just sweet.”
Christopher's is one of two new pre-K classes at Kitty Stone this year. Together, the two classes make up the system’s first full-fledged pre-K program.
Last year Jacksonville piloted a pre-K program, with nine students who attended class three hours a day, four days a week. This year, about 30 students are enrolled in the program and classes last for seven hours a day, five days a week.
“I see it as being a tremendous help,” Jacksonville schools Superintendent Jon Paul Campbell said. “It gives students a chance to learn about school and for them to be better prepared for kindergarten.”
He said research has proven that students who take pre-K classes are more likely to graduate high school and to be successful after graduation..
The pre-K expansion at Kitty Stone is paid for by the Office of School Readiness, a state organization that exists to administer the state’s high-quality pre-K program. It provided $120,000 to pay for two teachers, two teachers’ aides, a playground and desks.
Last week, the office awarded Piedmont City Schools a grant to expand its 6-year-old pre-K program by one class.
Workers spent Monday unpacking and installing prefabricated classroom furniture to prepare for new students. PIedmont’s program will now be able to teach 36 pre-K students in two classes.
Administrators in both systems said they are happy to see their programs expanding, but added that the demand for pre-K courses in their communities can’t be met with just two classes.
“We have five kindergarten classes. I wish we had five pre-K classes,” said Piedmont schools Superintendent Matt Akin.
Kitty Stone Principal Christy Hamilton said there are a total of 56 private and public pre-k class openings in Jacksonville, where 120 students entered kindergarten at Kitty Stone this year.
In Jacksonville 51 people applied for the program and in Piedmont about 15 people remain on the waiting list for the class.
Both districts used a lottery system to select the students.
“There is a huge need in our community,” Hamilton said, adding that she hopes it expands. “As long as the Legislature continues to provide funding, I see the program growing.”
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.