District opens doors to preschool program

Gretna Elementary preschool student Abel Bragg works on a project during Math Week earlier this month. The preschool students learned how to measure various objects and created a book.

An upcoming open house will provide families with preschool-age children an opportunity to learn more about the Gretna School District’s program.

On Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m., parents and children are invited to take a tour, learn about the curriculum and meet the teachers while visiting a preschool classroom at any of the district’s four elementary schools. Children who will be 4 years old by July 31 are eligible to attend for the 2016-17 school year.

“This is just an opportunity to show this is who we are,” said Deb Siemers, director of special education for the district. “Parents have a lot of choices today. We’re fortunate to have lots of great opportunities in Gretna.”

The school district offers preschool classes at each of its four elementary schools, with a total available enrollment of 120 students.

“We have increased our opportunities every year, and we’re finally at a point where we have a preschool at every elementary school,” Siemers said.

Preschool classes run Monday through Thursday, and students attend either a morning or afternoon session. Classes are limited to 14 or 15 students, for a total of 30 students enrolled per school.

For more than 20 years, the district’s program has used the HighScope curriculum.

“It’s a research-based curriculum that focuses on the whole child,” Siemers said. “This curriculum encourages the students to learn at their own rate.”

Whether it’s playing outside or working in a small group, Gretna Elementary preschool teacher Lindsey Voegele said the students are always learning through their daily activities.

“They learn problem-solving and decision-making skills,” Voegele said. “They learn to build positive relationships with other kids.”

The program’s low child-to-teacher ratio is one of the great things about the program, Voegele said, since it allows the early childhood teachers and paraeducators in each classroom to work closely with students. In addition, the district has services such as speech and occupational or physical therapy available to those who need it.

The district’s preschool students also have a head start on next year, Voegele said.

“It makes a good transition to kindergarten. They get to know the building and the staff members,” the preschool teacher said.

Applications for the preschool program will be available by the end of January and may be found on the district’s website, gretnadragons.org, or in any of the elementary school offices. The four schools are Gretna Elementary, 801 South St.; Palisades Elementary, 16820 Chutney Drive; Thomas Elementary, 11221 Northridge Drive; and Whitetail Creek Elementary, 19110 Greenleaf St. Forms also may be available at the open house night.

The district uses a lottery system to determine enrollment, and placement is based on preferences selected on the application form. Preschool enrollment, unlike kindergarten, does not have to correspond with residence location. Transportation is not provided. For questions about the program, including cost, contact the district offices at 402-332-3265.

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