Janesville76.2°

Turner School District studies 4K program

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ANN MARIE AMES
January 23, 2008
— Space is tight in the Turner School District.

But there’s room for some very little students.


So says a committee in its presentation of plans for 4-year-old kindergarten to the Turner School Board. The board could approve or deny the program next month.


The program does not depend on passing a construction referendum, which voters could be facing in April.


“We’re so excited,” said Powers Elementary School kindergarten teacher Lori Dabson. “Something needs to be done.”


The committee recommends a phased program in the first year. The district will offer morning and afternoon sessions. Classes will last two hours and 40 minutes, four days a week.


One teacher and one aide would lead a class of 15.


The cost to start the program is $126,000, which includes instructor salaries and benefits, transportation, materials and contingency money.


Powers Principal Sue Brandenburg said the program is worth every penny.


“We want every option available to our students,” Bradenburg said. “Everybody’s needs are different.”


The program will include some academics but will focus on socialization, exploration and school routines, Brandenburg said.


Just like kindergarten, 4K is optional, she said.


But that’s the only way the two programs are the same, said Powers early education teacher Penny Grunder.


“It’s not about using kindergarten programming for 4-year-olds,” Grunder said.


Dabson points out that Wisconsin’s first kindergarten opened in 1856. Kindergarten was private at the time and went public in Wisconsin in 1873.


It’s been a long time coming for preschool to make the move from private to public education, Dabson said.


“It’s time preschool was available in the public schools,” she said.


Brandenburg, Dabson and Grunder, who are members of the 4K committee, understand how hard it is for parents to send such little children to school.


“I still remember how I cried,” Dabson said. “And I was a kindergarten and a day care teacher.”


But it’s important for parents to look past the emotional response, she said.


“The world is more academic than it was,” Dabson said. “It’s about readiness.”


And parents will be welcome to visit or volunteer in classrooms, Brandenburg said.


“Parents are their children’s first teachers,” Brandenburg said. “We just want to be a partner in that.”



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