By RANDY TATANO
Special to Atmore News
Want to make sure your four-year-old goes to the head of the class?
Enrolling in a free pre-K program is a good way to do it. And the new one in Atmore needs a few more kids.
A.C. Moore Elementary closed in 2018 due to consolidation. Though the school is dated, the brick school has good bones, so this summer Deputy of Operations Shaun Goolsby restored a few classrooms and turned the old cafeteria into a gym in time for the new free pre-K program to launch.
Escambia County Schools Attendance and Counseling Supervisor Eric Andrews stressed the importance of the program that gets kids ready for kindergarten.
“The early years are more crucial,” Andrews said. “If you can get a child in the right program, they get into a routine. When you develop children that early, students will be more successful. At that age, they can absorb 95 percent of what is taught.”
Susan Yeszkonis, a pre-K teacher who has been dealing with little ones since the eighties, says learning the basic rules of behavior makes it easier for teachers in future years.
“It’s a foundation that every child can grow on,” she said. “They learn when to sit, when to play, how to wait their turn, how to wait in line. Pre-K instruction molds them for the future. They are innocent and loveable, like a first lump of clay.”
The program is mostly paid for through state and federal funding. Parents drop off their children between 7:45 and 8 in the morning, and pick them up at 2:30. Students get breakfast and lunch along with a nap as well as time in the new outdoor playground. They learn shapes and colors, make friends, and by the end of the year should be able to write their name. Kids also learn about careers by dressing up as a police officer, firefighter, doctor, and other professions.
Secondary Supervisor Jason Weeks knows the value of pre-K education since his wife is a kindergarten teacher.
“It allows the teacher to raise the rigor of the class sooner if they already know the rules,” he said. “When a kindergarten teacher doesn’t have to start the year teaching the routines of the classroom, it saves time for education.”
Andrews, who oversaw the pre-K program while at W.S. Neal Elementary, keeps an eye on attendance to make sure the routine of going to school every day is reinforced. He said there’s also an important psychological benefit as well.
“It lets children know there are people out there besides Mom and Dad who love and care for them,” he said.
Parents who wish to enroll their child may contact the school at (251) 368-4245.
Brewton resident Randy Tatano is a veteran TV news reporter and network producer, and is currently a novelist and freelance writer for the Escambia County School System.