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Parker opens preschool enrollment to all of Henry County

Parker Elementary School Preschool teacher Jessica Dupke preparesthe “theme wall” she’ll use to teach students colors, numbers and shapes when class starts Feb. 4.

By TRAVIS WEIK - editor@thecouriertimes.com

The old saying is, “All I really need to know, I learned in kindergarten.” And preschool might be the best way to get ready for kindergarten.

That’s the goal of the new preschool pilot program at Parker Elementary School in New Castle.

The New Castle Community School Corporation ultimately wants to see preschool programs in each of the city’s elementary buildings.

New Castle schools have an existing partnership with Head Start preschool. Those classes take place at the Raintree Education Center on South 5th Street.

The morning class at Parker will be the first time NCCSC has had its own preschool program in a Kindergarten-6th grade elementary school.

The New Castle Community School Corporation hopes this preschool program will help young learners develop the skills they need to be successful in full-day school.

“We’re very excited to kick it off,” said NCCSC Assistant Superintendent Lisa Smith. “We all understand the importance of pre-K.”

Smith said the preschool will help kids learn to play and share with other students and teach them how to stand in line when they need to. The students will also get familiar with shapes, colors and numbers.

“They’re not necessarily academic skills you would typically think of with school,” Smith said.

Smith said NCCSC is doing everything it can to make the program successful, including making it free to the public.

“We want to do it, and we want to do it right,” Smith said.

The New Castle School Board created a new preschool teacher position in December and added Jessica Dupke to the team.

Dupke is a former children’s librarian at New Castle-Henry County Public Library and former special education assistant at Knightstown Intermediate School.

“We’re very happy to have her on board with us,” Smith said.

Dupke has spent the last month working with Smith, NCCSC Curriculum, Instruction and Elementary Programs Director Sherri Bergum, and Director of Special Education Dr. Amy Blake.

“It’s new for all of us,” Dupke said. “To get this going is incredible.”

Dupke, who has a four year old of her own, is excited about the chance to bring preschool to New Castle. She emphasized that it’s not “glorified babysitting.”

“Getting them in here and getting them adapted to a school is huge, before they hit Kindergarten and are expected to sit all day every day,” Dupke said.

Besides teaching kids how they should act in class, Dupke will also touch on skills like safely holding scissors and imaginative play. She plans tours of the school building, too.

Dupke hopes the preschool program eventually expands to morning and afternoon classes.

New Castle preschool at Parker starts Feb. 4 and will be 8:30-11 a.m.

When Parker first started accepting students for the free preschool program, it targeted families in the area. Now, they have opened up enrollment to any four year old in Henry County. Parents will need to provide transportation to and from school.

Dupke will host an open house for parents Jan. 31.

Community members from around the county are invited to learn more about the program and find out how to enroll their kids.

The New Castle preschool program is designed for children who are currently four years old and who will be five years old by Aug. 1. That way, they can go right into kindergarten.

Both Dupke and Smith are thankful for the community partnerships that made the Parker pilot preschool program possible.

Smith especially thanked the HOPE Initiative for buying the preschool curriculum Dupke will use this year.

“They’ve really given us a lot of help and support as we walked through this,” Smith said.

For more information on the pilot preschool program, call the Parker Elementary School front office at 765-521-7209.