04/18 - Pre-kindergarten expands in Gilbert - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

04/18 - Pre-kindergarten expands in Gilbert

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Posted: Friday, April 18, 2003 9:03 am | Updated: 1:00 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Whether they’re acting out "The Little Red Hen" or drawing pictures of themselves making banana bread, Patti Gleason’s prekindergarten students don’t know they’re lucky.

Lucky to get into one of only two such classes at Neely Elementary School.

But with a long waiting list of parents eager to sign up their 4-year-olds for the class, the Gilbert Unified School District is expanding the program to four to six classes by adding two locations: Houston Elementary School and the new Spectrum Elementary School, set to open in August.

"We’re excited to see the program expand and so much interest," Gleason said.

Gleason, who is a former child care business owner and a certified elementary school teacher, created the kindergarten prep program.

The program, which began this year, is expected to be accredited during the summer.

She’ll train one or two additional certified teachers over the summer for the expansion.

Gleason and teaching aide Sheri Hammer work one-onone with 20 and 19 students in their morning and afternoon classes, in a variety of learning centers incorporating play, literature and learning — from a computer center and library to a science center and writing or painting station.

The three-hour daily program costs $240 a month.

Hammer and Gleason said the extra year gives children an academic and social headsup in kindergarten, which is becoming more challenging.

It gives parents who don’t want to test their children into kindergarten early — or those who want their children to be better prepared for kindergarten, another option, she said.

Children have learned to pick up after themselves and even raised $1,000 during a mini-march to donate toward cystic fibrosis research.

"My kids went to a private Christian preschool for three years and I never thought you could duplicate it in a public school," said Debbie Wilhelm, whose 5-year-old daughter Blair attends class at Neely.

For Jacob Newman, 5, "playing with Legos and making cars" rated high in the curriculum.

For more information, call (480) 892-9089.

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