Moms, teachers say Pre-K makes big difference

New state budget ups funding

K-4 has been a wonderful experience for Katie Odom’s son, Matthew, she said.

“He was really timid and shy,” she said. “He loves coming to school and really likes his teacher. I would highly recommend parents entering the drawing for a spot in this class.”

As the chief financial officer for Andalusia City Schools, Odom well understands the funding necessary for adding K-4 for all students. This year, 69 students pre-registered for the Andalusia program, which operates one class on the AES campus, and another on the Bright Beginnings campus.

Addyson Berry and Mrs. Clarke during the special Pre-K program Friday.

“We would love to get funding for another class,” Sonja Hines, district administrator of Andalusia City Schools, said.

And that might be possible. Friday morning, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law an Education Trust Fund budget that increases Pre-K funding by $13 million, and is expected to provide at least 100 more classrooms next fall.

Pre-K classes also are offered at Straughn, Pleasant Home, Red Level and Opp. Both parents and teachers said the class makes a world of difference for children.

“The biggest change is their language,” AES Pre-K teacher Allyson Clarke said. “Their maturity level increases, too. They recognize words and are beginning to read.’

In an end-of-the year program for parents Friday afternoon, Clarke explained that the 4 year olds started each day with breakfast in the classroom. Then they did the Pledge of Allegiance and sang songs, studied the calendar and talked about the date and day of the week. Friday, she took them through part of that routine for their parents. Each child introduced himself to those gathered and said what he or she liked about school.

Eden Popwell said her favorite part of kindergarten is playing teacher and getting to write on the board.

“I teach them to be sassy,” she said of her time there.

She also likes “playing with people,” she said.

Each day, each child in K-4 has a job. On Friday, Eden’s was to lead the pledge.

Matthew Odom said the best job is being line leader. He also liked playing football with his friends and studying his ABCs, he said.

“It has a been a great year,” Megan Berry said of her daughter’s experience. “Addyson’s writing has improved, and she can read the other kids’ names. She can identify the letters of the alphabet, and didn’t know all of them before.”

Berry has a 3-year-old, and hopes she is lucky enough to get her in a K-4 program, too.

Jenny Jordan’s daughter, Audrey, is also was a member of the class.

“It has helped her confidence and ability to interact with new people,” Jordan said. “She’s grown up a lot.”

The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education administers the state’s Pre-K program through a competitive grants process. Classrooms are located in public schools, child care centers, faith-based centers, Head Start programs and other preschool settings.

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