Windham – In days gone by, folks who were able to send their youngsters to a pre-school program were usually of the elite sector and pre-school was considered an option only for those who were financially blessed. Pre-schools, back in the day, were few and far between and had long waiting lists. Now all that has changed and pre-schools are everywhere and more parents are seeing the need for  and value of early childhood education [and finding the means to do so]. Not only are they finding the means, they are also discovering that there is a pre-school in their area and it is more affordable than ever.

Windham Katherine Thomas Elementary Pre-School was started in 1991 when Principal Margaret Miller of Katherine Thomas applied for a grant for the program. The district received the grant and the pre-school program has been running ever since. Although some things have changed, the pre-school is still going strong. The funding they receive from the grant dwindles each year, leaving the district to cover the majority of it. Parents who enroll their child in the program pay a small amount for the service.  The fee is set on a sliding scale based on family income. The maximum a parent will pay is $11.10 / week and some will pay less. The pre-school is housed in the Katherine Thomas Elementary School.

The pre-school has openings for 64 children and generally has a waiting list. The waiting list is done by age and academic need, not necessarily when one was put on the list.

The school accepts four year olds and those who are five years old before August 1, of the enrollment year. Younger students are accepted and determined case by case, based on evaluations and academic needs. The pre-school will also accept those who are enrolled in HeadStart. It used to be that if your child was enrolled in HeadStart they were not eligible for pre-school services but that has recently changed. Parents can have their child enrolled in both programs.

Each child enrolled will be screened for speech, hearing, vision, academic assessment, immunizations etc. ensuring that each student receives the services they need to have a successful early education experience. Those who have disabilities and special needs that require occupational therapy, physical or speech therapies can have those therapies done during the school day at school. The district has a contract with the county to provide these services.

The school is fully staffed with teachers who have Early Childhood Education Degrees and each classroom has an aide who is trained in early childhood education as well. The staff is CPR and first aid certified; they also are trained about  communicable diseases. They offer morning and afternoon classes Monday through Friday and transportation within the district is provided. They are also 100% compliant with all state licensing and mandates.

The classrooms are cheery, fun and will make one want to kick off their shoes and start playing, but the school is more than just playing.  It is a learning center. They use High Scope Curriculum and have the room divided-up into nifty little stations for activities such as reading, social skills development, science experiments and more.

They follow a daily scheduled and have plenty of hands-on learning, while focusing on kindergarten / reading readiness skills, social skills, letters, numbers, colors, and shape recognition, name-writing and recognition and more. The school prepares the youngsters for kindergarten. Many of the things they do at the school are play /learn activities where the kids are learning through play as they master specific skills needed for kindergarten.

Each week, students have the opportunity to use the library, computer lab and even spend some time in the kitchen. The students take two big field trips a year and many mini trips in town as they learn about grocery stores, local government, banking etc. The kids have snacks each day and the school works with all dietary restrictions. They even have a fenced in area for outdoor recess. The outside area has swings, playground equipment to climb on and a mini roadway for the kids to ride “Big Wheels” on. The school has many riding toys for the kids to use on the mini roadway.

Pre-school education is not a pre-requisite for kindergarten but it does help children get ready for their academic careers. Therefore, if one is considering early childhood education for their youngsters, remember Katherine Thomas Elementary Pre-school, a place where students learn through play as they master skills needed for kindergarten.

Katherine Thomas Elementary Pre-school is now taking applications for fall and one may enroll a child by picking up an enrollment packet at Katherine Thomas Elementary School 9032 Maple Grove Street Windham 330 326-9800.