WHEELING - The Ohio County Universal Pre-School program offers many benefits for its young students and establishes the foundation for their education, Ohio County Student Services Director MaryLu Hutchins said.
Hutchins said West Virginia passed legislation in 2002 that made Pre-K available to all 4-year-olds in the state. Ohio County Schools is entering its 10th year of offering pre-school services, and school system officials believe its program may be the finest in West Virginia.
There are now 13 Ohio County sites with multiple classrooms that offer 3- and 4-year-old students a program that addresses their social, cognitive, linguistic, emotional, cultural and physical needs. There are nearly 300 students enrolled in the Pre-K program this school year.
"We are delighted to be able to partner with parents when children are at an early age, because as we develop school partnerships early on, when the child feels comfortable in the environment and the teacher and the parent develop a trusting relationship, we can help the child as a whole," Hutchins said.
One of the most important concepts for the Universal Pre-School program is that every activity, every story, every interaction, matches what is "developmentally appropriate" for each student, she said.
Elm Grove Elementary Principal Richard Dunlevy said he believes there are many benefits for children attending the county's Universal Pre-School program.
"If that's another year of education, another year of receiving services through Ohio County Schools and another year of being amongst their peers ... they're even more adapted to the program of the school," said Dunlevy. He said the children attending the pre-school program at Elm Grove Elementary follow all the same school rules as the older students.
The Pre-K sites have been established in collaboration with preschool agencies and Northern Panhandle Head Start. Locations for this school year include: Cradles-to-Crayons, Creative Hands Child Care Learning Center, Easter Seals, Holy Family Child Care Center, The Kids Club, North Park and Elm Grove, Madison, Ritchie, Warwood and Woodsdale Elementary Schools.
Ohio County Schools also offers supplemental services including speech, occupational and physical therapy to students deemed eligible.