Forest Park Schools May Offer Preschool to All 3 to 5 Year Olds
District 91 eyeing the effort as a way of giving youngsters a better start in school, program to be based at Garfield.
Parents of 3-year-olds may be able to give their youngsters a better start in school if Forest Park District 91 next month adopts a universal preschool program.
The board of education heard a presentation about the effort last month and may vote to approve it in February.
If the program gets the green light, two half-day programs will be housed at Garfield School, 543 Hannah Ave., starting next fall. Garfield currently serves the district's primary school-age.
Jamie Stauder, Garfield's principal, is hopeful that the program will be approved by the school board and embraced by the community.
As envisioned by the district, the program would include some core academic skills, such as a recognition of letters and numbers, what they mean and sound like. An early development of reading skills also will be included.
Stauder said youngsters would also get to explore the community and the world around them, allowing them to stretch their curiousity.
Creative play also will be included.
"They need that time to be creative and develop their skills appropriate to their age," she said.
Stauder said they plan to have six sections with no more than 15 children in a section. Parents can choose the period from 8:15 to 11 a.m. or noon to 2:45 p.m.
The children will be plenty busy. Four days a week school will be pretty typical. On the fifth day, they may be going to the park district headquarters, where they can take part in dancing, cooking, nature, sports and other activities.
These activities are a big part of education, even in preschool, said Larry Piekarz, the park district's executive director.
"It will provide a more well-rounded program. The skills of working with people in later life are picked up when they're playing with others at an early age," he said. "It's great they approached us. We're excited about working them them."
Stauder believes they will have the numbers to sustain the program. She is certain the effort will speak for itself once it gets rolling.
"I think it will entice families to come to Forest Park. They'll enroll their children and stay," she said.