SIDNEY – School officials at Fairlawn Local School are preparing to move forward with a third level of education at the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten levels late this year. If the anticipated funding is realized shortly, their hopes are to begin the program in November.
On Thursday, the board of education heard a presentation on the First Fives Program by pre-k teacher Casie Piper and kindergarten teachers Beth Butler and Mindy Cox.
Piper said the program model is aimed at students who need additional instruction to be better prepared emotionally, socially, and academically for kindergarten. She said this plan would give those students the “gift of time” in being more successful in school.
She said currently pre-k students go through the half day course with no option but to advance to kindergarten, if they are borderline prepared. The First Fives would become an option for those who need additional time in a pre-k setting.
Piper explained the program would incorporate a full day school schedule that would include art, music, and physical education.
Butler said a benefit would be smaller class sizes and allow academic plans to be better designed to the individual student. Allowing the students to attend a full day schedule prior to entering kindergarten would be beneficial.
Board member Andy Brautigam asked about staffing the program and its funding.
Elementary Principal Karen McRill said another staff member would most likely be needed. Until the state funding amounts are finalized, and how many students will be participating, the plan remains in the planning stages.
Superintendent Jeff Hobbs said currently 17 students would be placed in the new program. Eight of those live within the district, the others are open enrolled. He explained state funding is different for those groups. Treasurer Keith Doseck said state officials most likely will not finalize the amount of funding until early October.
Piper said she currently has 44 students in her pre-k class. Butler has 26 with Cox stating 25 children are in her class. Piper said students open enrolled into the First Five programs would be siblings of older students already in the Fairlawn school.
The trio said they have had discussion with parents with overwhelming support for the idea.
McRill said there is an open room near the current pre-k and kindergarten classes. They have examined obtaining the needed supplies for the room, discovering tables and chairs in a storage building.
Hobbs said the startup costs for supplies would be approximately $7,500, not counting the additional staff member. He estimated to first year salary and benefits at $60,000.
Doseck said he has worked closely with the educators. He anticipates if state funding arrives as thought, the program could pay for itself.
A parents meeting will be scheduled for late October.
Substitute teacher pay increased unanimously
To attract substitute teachers, the board unanimously agreed to increase the rate of pay from $85 to $100 per day. The increase took effect Friday, Sept. 15.
Hobbs said he is having difficulty attracting substitute teachers for the district. The increase in pay is a hoped-for incentive as all schools in the county are having similar problems he said.
The board approved nine people as substitute teachers. They include Ashley Borchers, Roxanne Chivington, Noreen Elliott, Emily Kasper, Chad Keith, Lauren Luthman, Rosa Rojas, Tina Rose and Broaddus Shamblin.
By next week, a new lighted sign for the school will be installed at the intersection of state Route 29 and Johnston Road. The sign is being donated to the school by the Class of 2017.
Hobbs said the sign is a student project for the installation. The long-time directional sign at that location, donated by the Class of 1953, will be moved the far end of Johnston Road.
The superintendent also reported a new school bus has been received. He noted the district continues to have a shortage of bus drivers urging those interested to call the school.
Athletic Director Justin Tidwell updated the board of the new 3.2-mile cross-country trail being completed. He explained a trail through a heavily-wooded area needs cleared.
Tidwell said he is attempting to have a company use cutting and mulching equipment along the trail as employee training. The trail is expected to be finished by next fall, he said.
In other business, the board:
• Approved a graduation date of Sunday, May 27, 2018.
• Agreed to the new bus routes established.
• Awarded a one-year, limited service contract to Theresa Elliott as Pre-K Shelby Hills bus driver at a rate of $3,500.
• Hired Brittany Cathcart and Rebecca Puckett as substitute aides at a rate of $9.50 per hour.
• Accepted the resignation of Jacquelyn Jenkinson as senior high student council advisor; and awarded half-year contracts to Elisabeth Baker and Jill Smith to the position for $847.25 each.
• Awarded contracts to Tracy Eilerman, spelling bee coordinator, $338.90; and Karen Ike, freshman class advisor, $677.80.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.