Early Learning Center off to a great start

Early Learning Center off to a great start

Early Learning Center off to a great start

On September 5th the new HCSD Early Learning Center welcomed its youngest students at Grass Valley Elementary School. However, the work for this new program started much earlier. Deanna Owens, Special Services Director, announced in May 2017 that all Early Childhood and Pre-k programs would be housed in one location.

Program funding

Mrs. Owens explained the process of bringing all the programs together.

“Humboldt County School District stakeholders had to consider many options in order for a comprehensive Early Learning Center to become a reality. One of the critical elements discussed was how to use funds in a way that allowed for the expansion of programming. Braided funding became the mechanism that moved the planning forward. Braided funding involves multiple funding streams combined to create high-quality inclusive preschool programs, with careful accounting of how every dollar from each stream is spent and how requirements are met. The term braiding is used when multiple funding streams are brought together and then carefully pulled back apart to report to funders on how the money was spent. This approach has promoted maximized service efficiencies for The Early Learning Center. “

Program staff

The Early Learning Center has eight teachers, a Speech and Language teacher, a Parent Engagement Coordinator and thirteen paraprofessionals. Of the eight teachers, four are returning teachers: Lyssa Kingman (Pre-K Classroom teacher), Kymberly Gamble (Pre-K Classroom teacher), Janice Lester (Pre-K/Special Education Teacher) and Pamala Barber (Pre-k/Special Education teacher). The remaining four are new hires: Skylar Estes, a hometown girl we found in Montana, Paula Kins, a former Elko County teacher we found in Alaska and Dana Peterson who we found in Pahrump, Nevada. Chandra Waner is the new teacher for the half-day three year old classes and is currently student teaching. Michel Warner is working as the substitute teacher until Ms. Waner completes her student teaching in October. This talented staff is supported by Anissa Sylvester our Speech and Language teacher and Shauna Gilboy the Speech and Language Paraprofessional. Megan Reynolds is the Parent Engagement Coordinator and will be the liaison supporting the parents and the staff. The program would not be successful without the hard work and dedication of the paraprofessionals that support the students and teachers. They are: Michelle Aguilar, Elvia Esquibel, Makkenna Lloyd, Katie Garner, Shandra Smith, Abigail Lozano, Jennifer Robinson, Brenda VanWeerd, Jasmin Meza, Crystal Hernandez, Ashely Rose and Rosa Castellanos.

Where we were and where we are now

Prior to this school year each elementary school housed an Early Childhood and Pre-K program which were all half-day programs. The grant funding allowed the district to move from six half-day non-inclusive programs to five full day, fully inclusive programs for four year olds, and three half-day fully inclusive programs for primarily three year olds. Currently, 143 students are attending high quality preschool.

The Early Learning Center is fortunate to be able to offer a lunch program for all full day students. Pre-k students are given the choice of bringing a cold lunch from home or having a school lunch. All students eat lunch in the lunchroom; this opportunity provides the students with the lunchroom expectations that will make their transition to kindergarten easier. It did not take long for the students to demonstrate proper lunchroom behavior. The staff is pleased and proud of how far the students have come in such a short time.

The program offers an opportunity for busing to and from school. Approximately 40 students are riding the bus which utilizes five stops throughout the town. There are aides on the bus to assist the students as they get on and off the bus. Special harnesses were purchased for students that are below a certain weight limit and staff participated in a training that addressed correct harness usage and bus safety. The aides that are riding the bus have successfully designed a process of loading and unloading students that is working very well.

GVES New Principal

Grass Valley Elementary School (GVES) was excited to welcome our new principal Kristen Holden, who came to us from Washoe County School District. She has brought with her Pre-K experience and a wealth of knowledge in the elementary school setting. She was excited to support the new Early Learning Center at GVES and had this to say about the new program.

“I am thrilled to be the administrator over such a quality program for our district. From the short time Grass Valley has welcomed its 143 Pre-K students, we have been pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it has gone. We can give our thanks to the outstanding Pre-K staff for this, from the quality of the teachers to the dedicated aides, our parent support coordinator as well as the rest of the Grass Valley staff for embracing this important opportunity for our community. I am committed to having the Pre-K program fully included in our school improvement efforts and initiatives and view this opportunity as essential for having more of our students prepared for their kindergarten education. A top priority for these little ones is strengthening their oral language development. We are encouraging all staff and parents to help these students speak in full sentences and to help them increase their vocabulary and experiences about the world. By doing this, students will enter kindergarten with the experiences and vocabulary needed to become readers. One way we are supporting this goal is to have collaborative curriculum units developed which target oral language, vocabulary and collaboration among our little ones. Next time you meet a Humboldt County School District Pre-ker, ask them to tell you about their learning in school (using a full sentence)!”

The staff of the Early Learning Center is grateful for the opportunity to teach and prepare our youngest students to become contributing members of society who are effective communicators, collaborators, and creative, critical thinkers.