Early Childhood Program prepares pre-kindergarten students for success

GEARY COUNTY, Kan. — Geary County Schools USD 475’s Early Childhood Program is serving hundreds of children between the ages of three to five years old with a variety of classroom structures and opportunities to prepare them for the next step, kindergarten.

These include preschool, early childhood reverse mainstream classrooms, appointment services, general education, and more, located at the Early Childhood Center and multiple USD 475 elementary schools.

“Children between the ages of three to five, their brains are growing at a fast rate. It will never again be that rapid of development within the brain,” said Stephanie Waterman, principal of the Early Childhood Center. “So, the earlier a child receives intervention, research tells us the quicker that they will make gains. Our Little Jays are just sponges as far as language development, cognitive development, social skill development, and so early intervention really is key for children.”

The program’s trained staff use curriculum and instructional programs that prepare the student for the reading and math that they will learn from kindergarten to sixth grade, while simultaneously helping them build social and language skills by being alongside their peers.

“We have more and more kids that are at home and potentially not around other kids their age,” said Kate Stewart, the Early Childhood Program coordinator. “So, with the standards for kindergarten being set so high, we want those kids to enter the elementary schools with some skills and things already in place. We are involved in all of the curriculum and conversations, so everything that we do here is tied up into the elementary schools, middle schools, high school, so that’s how our district can connect those pieces.”

All children who turn three or four by Aug. 31 are eligible for the program. During the application process, parents will identify any areas of concern, and the program staff will perform further screening to see what class structure will be best for the student. The child will then be placed on the waitlist for placement or will have further screening performed if necessary.

The program is funded through grants and the school district, making their services entirely free to the families of Geary County.

“We know that can be a barrier, and so we want to remove all of those barriers,” Stewart said.

Families can apply their children for the program any time of the year, and applications can be found here. Additionally, the program will be holding Child Find Screenings for families who have concerns and would like their students screened over the summer and fall. The summer dates will be June 29, July 13, and July 20. To schedule an appointment, please call 785-717-6950.

For inquiries, please contact Lindley Lund, Marketing and Media Specialist for Geary County Schools USD 475, at lindleylund@usd475.org.