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Prepped for preschool: HCS' Readiness Academy begins classes today

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By Kelly Cantrall

Though the first day of school was many months ago, two local elementary schools will welcome 25 new students today.

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The new Preschool Readiness Academy opened today in Hardin County Schools. The two classrooms, at North Park Elementary School and Heartland Elementary School, serve students who don’t qualify for preschool under state guidelines. The program was approved by the HCS board in December.

Since then, administrators have contacted families whose children were close to meeting preschool requirements, staff members were hired and rooms were readied for new students.

Teacher Suzanne Carter and teaching assistant Kayci Coyne made plans Wednesday for the first day at North Park. They have 14 students and can accept up to 40.

Carter said they will move more quickly through the preschool curriculum because students are starting in the middle of the year.

“We’re still going to stick with the curriculum but it will be expedited,” she said.

Julia Keathley, the preschool teacher at Heartland, said in an email the program will focus on literacy and math. Students will work on early reading skills such as the alphabet and math skills including patterns and sorting.

Carter and Coyne have met with most of their students’ families. Carter said parent and student response has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

“Some of the kids wanted to come with me that day,” she said.

North Park Principal Beth Brandenburg said the program is a great opportunity to prepare more children for kindergarten. To further that, the school plans a summer program for students preparing to enter kindergarten.

“We really want to give a big boost before they start kindergarten,” she said.

Eleven students are enrolled in the Heartland preschool class.

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity to help children who need early exposure to school that often many children don’t get a chance to have,” Heartland Principal Emily Campbell said in an email.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.