“At the present time, the district does not have a formal pre-kindergarten program due to lack of numbers,” said Stephen Maldonado, elementary principal. “For the past 10 years the district has instead initiated a pre-kinder orientation program that began in January of each school year and ends in May.”
Children who are eligible to be enrolled in a pre-kinder program are invited to the elementary kindergarten classroom once a month for a half day orientation from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m.
They begin their day with all the children in grades K-6 in the cafeteria. They have breakfast, listen to announcements, say the pledges and observe a minute of silence. The morning instructional routine begins with a quick-paced, multi-instructional drill.
Their half-day ends with lunch and the much-anticipated lunch recess on the playground with grades kinder through third grade.
“The five half-day visits made difference in making the transition from the home to the school,” Maldonado said.
Since last year, kindergarten teacher, Phyllis Neves has offered two days a month instead of one. There was evidence that two half-days were better.
Operation Jump Start will take the pre-kinder orientation program to a higher level at ATISD this year. Using ARRA Stimulus Funds set aside for pre-kindergarten programs, ATISD will offer a half-day morning program from May 2 to May 27.
“The stimulus funds have been used to purchase a pre-kindergarten reading program,” Maldonado said.
Next year (2011-2012) Operation Jump Start will begin April 30 and end May 25. There will be no half day sessions in January, February, March or April.
Teacher Phyllis Neves, and principal Maldonado, are encouraged by the enthusiasm of the parents and by the support of the faculty and staff.
“Mrs. Neves has a gift of dealing with diverse student populations,” Maldonado said. “Her dedication to her children and her ability to do more than one thing at a time, will make Operation Jump Start a success.
“Many four-year-old children are prepared on the first day for the school career. Others require more nurturing and more encouraging as they spend their first days as students. It is a journey that will include at least 13 years of formal education.”
Neves said she takes the traditional methodology of early childhood education and adds the modern findings of current research to develop lessons and centers that will provide a sturdy basis for a fun filled start into kindergarten.
Maldonado said the schools mission is to encourage students to meet or exceed all their learning potential and to visualize that learning is a life-long experience.