Coquille's new pre-kindergarten program a 'necessity'

2013-09-10T07:00:00Z 2014-02-21T11:49:52Z Coquille's new pre-kindergarten program a 'necessity'By Chelsea Davis, The World Coos Bay World
September 10, 2013 7:00 am  • 

COQUILLE — Pre-kindergarten is the first step toward retaining students and ensuring a successful academic career, school officials say.

This fall, the Coquille School District became the second district in the state to implement a pre-kindergarten program at a public elementary school (David Douglas School District in Portland was the first). Sept. 3 marked the first day of the program, with 23 youngsters getting a jump start on their education at Lincoln Elementary.

Sharon Nelson retired from her position as Coquille High School principal this summer and became the half-time principal at Lincoln.

"It was something that is a necessity and the sooner we can get our kids into a pre-kindergarten mindset, the school routines and pre-everything, we're looking at making greater advances in student achievement once they reach kindergarten, especially to tie in with the new kindergarten readiness assessment now required by all schools in the state," Nelson said.

The 4-year-olds are going to pre-kindergarten half-days, Monday through Thursday. Coquille kids can attend the program for free, while out-of-town families must pay a $60 monthly fee.

"It is as I had anticipated: a much-needed and wanted program," she said.

Superintendent Tim Sweeney said the discussion of launching a pre-kindergarten program began in March. He turned to Rudy Crew, former Oregon chief education officer, to see if there was any state funding available for a pilot pre-kindergarten program.

"He loved the idea," Sweeney said.

The state didn't end up funding the program, though. Instead, the district received a Title VI Innovate Programs grant from the U.S. Department of Education, as well as grants from Coquille's First Community Credit Union and Coquille Valley Hospital. All in all, the district received approximately $30,000 to fund the program. The remaining $35,000 to $40,000 needed to cover staffing costs will come from the district's general fund.

"There's not a lot of financial incentive" for Oregon school districts to create these types of programs considering budget cuts to education the last several years, he said.

"But we felt the academic and social benefits outweighed the financial limitations," he said. "It really is the right thing to do. If a student is not reading by the end of third grade, their rate of dropping out is exponentially higher and their rate of landing in prison is exponentially higher."

This falls in line with Oregon's Common Core State Standards, an initiative geared toward making sure each student is college- and career-ready by the time he or she graduates.

In order to increase the chance that students meet these expectations, they need more time to learn those skills, he said. Pre-kindergarten also gives children the skills they need to enter kindergarten, such as interacting with their peers and knowing what's expected of them.

Sweeney expects the pre-kindergarten program will be capped at 28 to 30 students per year, putting at most 15 children in each class.

He has "every intention" of continuing the program past this school year, especially since the federal grant is continuous.

"I don't see [the pre-kindergarten program] going away anytime soon, but you can never tell when we're going to have a catastrophic state budget," he said.

He hopes Oregon legislators will make strides in Gov. John Kitzhaber's proposed special legislative session Sept. 30 to avoid more cuts to education.

While he said the district would never require 2-year-olds to go to an early education program, he does believe in a "birth-to-20" model and hopes to expand Lincoln's services in the future by providing preschool for 3-year-olds and a toddler class for children age 2 and under.

Reporter Chelsea Davis can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 239, or by email at Follow her on Twitter: @ChelseaLeeDavis.

Copyright 2015 Coos Bay World. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. jfiddle
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    jfiddle - September 17, 2013 6:17 am
    To continue... "The aforementioned study also found that low-income individuals who were enrolled in a quality preschool program earned on average, by age 40, $5500 per year more than those who were not.[10] Furthermore, the study found that low-income people who were in preschool programs as a child are more likely to graduate from high school, own homes, and have longer marriages. "
  2. jfiddle
    Report Abuse
    jfiddle - September 17, 2013 6:16 am "Benefits of early childhood education[edit source | editbeta]

    Benefits of early childhood education[edit source | editbeta]

    In Ypsilanti, Michigan, 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families who were randomly assigned to a group that did not receive preschool education were five times more likely to have become chronic lawbreakers by age 18 than those who did receive it.[9]
  3. Retread
    Report Abuse
    Retread - September 14, 2013 10:31 am
    Rather farcical considering our kids are dropping out in record numbers and many of those that are graduating are moving on with eighth and ninth grade skills. The public school system keeps experimenting with this kind of nonsense instead of jettisoning bad teachers and setting higher benchmarks for both teachers and students.
  4. Libertarian
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    Libertarian - September 13, 2013 10:15 pm
    Are these kids even potty trained? Spending money on kids although a noble idea for the uneducated is not a guarantee of results. Unless of course the results you want are for more teachers to be employed. The average attention span of a four year old is not long enough to accommodate even a half day. The cream will always rise to the top no matter how long you stir the milk or how soon you start to stir it. Spend the first half dozen years teaching your child morality then send them off.
  5. randomcommenter
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    randomcommenter - September 11, 2013 5:05 pm
    This is a great program. How dare you call it babysitting, many kids come from single parent homes as well as homes where only one parent works. Why shouldn't we spend money on kids, they are our most important asset.
  6. oregonpeach
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    oregonpeach - September 11, 2013 2:26 pm
    It's about time Oregon. I have lived in Georgia for the past several years where pre-K is provided to every 4-year-old and paid for with lottery dollars. Wasn't the Oregon lottery supposed to pay for education when voted in many moons ago? Oh that's right -- the powers-that-be stole the lottery money to pay for economic development. Using the money to pay for pre-K instead couldn't have any worse results than all that economic development that has created so many family wage jobs.
  7. Libertarian
    Report Abuse
    Libertarian - September 10, 2013 6:51 pm
    This is a waste of taxpayer money on expensive babysitting for two working parent families. To pretend otherwise insults the intelligence. The kids who are college material will catch up with and pass those who are not no matter how early they start. I would be more worried about school burnout than any benefit to be found. What we need is a family wage job economy where both parents don't have to work and need child care. That way the non working parent can teach the child all they need.
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