School District mulls constructing three full-time preschools

Iowa City School District discusses creating three new full-time preschools to increase attendance.

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School District mulls constructing three full-time preschools

The Iowa City Community School District sign is seen on Nov. 5, 2018

The Iowa City Community School District sign is seen on Nov. 5, 2018

Michael Guhin

The Iowa City Community School District sign is seen on Nov. 5, 2018

Michael Guhin

Michael Guhin

The Iowa City Community School District sign is seen on Nov. 5, 2018

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter

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Working parents may find it difficult to enroll their children in half-day preschools because it requires them to leave work in the middle of the day to pick up their kids. The Iowa City School District plans to solve the problem with the proposed construction of three full-time preschools. 

The district has a task force comprising teachers and administrators discussing the benefits and disadvantages of constructing the preschools, which would be located in Iowa City, North Liberty, and Coralville.

The district is in the early stages of discussing the project, and the district hasn’t decided on either a funding source or whether or not to construct the preschools.

“We’ve looked at our data over the past several years, and we’re finding that we have 20 to 25 percent of our entering kindergarten students do not have a preschool experience,” said Diane Schumacher, the School District director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment. “As we have talked with parents, we note that there are some barriers to having their children attend preschool, so we’re hoping that the preschool center idea might be able to eliminate some of those barriers.”

Two main barriers they found parents face when enrolling their children in preschool are transportation and childcare. Because of the limited number of hours the district provides for preschool located in the elementary schools, parents have faced the issue of transporting their children to and from other childcare locations or from home, Schumacher said.

The new buildings would also serve students in a more economical way through filling preschool classrooms, she said.

RELATED: Iowa City School Board redraws boundaries for next fall

Even though the preschools would be located in one location, it may increase the barrier of transportation if a family have an elementary-school-age child and the previous preschool was in the same school, Schumacher said. Transportation may also be made more difficult if the family lives farther away from the new location compared with the old.

Our goal is to get as many kids in preschool as possible, before going to kindergarten. So the hope is that having more options for families, as far as hours and locations, will hopefully help boost attendance.”

The district has varying classroom sizes for preschool, as well as varying locations. However, there is no variation in childcare service for families, said Terri Novak-Cicha, the district preschool instructional design specialist. The district currently provides preschool but not childcare. The addition of the new preschools would allow that service, she said.

The district currently can’t have a lot of preschools in one location, so by having a separate building, it would be able to have more available space with the addition of providing childcare, she said.

RELATED: Iowa City School District discusses rezoning elementary schools

Having preschool staff in one building would allow support staff to be better used in supporting the children and other staff members, Novak-Cicha said.

“There would really be an opportunity to have a lot of specialized services, like speech language pathologists specializing in preschool rather than just using the building language pathologist,” Novak-Cicha said. “Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t have experience with preschool.”

Currently, the district has 18 preschool programs located in 13 elementary schools throughout the district, School District preschool support lead teacher Jay Beaver said. Fifteen of the programs are half-day and have sessions in the morning and afternoon, he said.

The new preschools would still have half-day sessions available to families, Beaver said.

“Our goal is to get as many kids in preschool as possible, before going to kindergarten,” Beaver said. “So the hope is that having more options for families, as far as hours and locations, will hopefully help boost attendance.”

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