Lehighton children get early boost with Pre-K program
Yuri Martin works with Play-Doh during the opening week of Lehighton Area School District’s Pre-K Counts program.
Lorenzo Salazar gets his bookbag near the end of Lehighton Area School District’s Pre-K Counts class on Thursday.
Amber Williams, one of Lehighton Area School District’s two Pre-K Counts teachers, helps a group of students during class Thursday. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app for a video of the program. JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS
Madison Coco tries out a toy telephone Thursday as Lehighton Area School District’s Pre-K Counts program nears the end of its first week.
Kendra Hornketh and Carson Hopper work together on a puzzle during Lehighton Area School District’s Pre-K Counts class on Thursday.
Toddlers can come a long way in four days, as two teachers in Lehighton Area School District are finding out with the kickoff of the Pre-K Counts program.
Eligible 3- and 4-year-old children attend the program at Shull-David Elementary, which gives them experience in a classroom setting before heading to kindergarten.
Run through a $170,000 state grant, the program is free for families who make less than 300 percent of the poverty level.
“From Monday to Thursday, we now have a lot less tears and a lot more smiles from the children as they come into the room,” said Amber Williams, who teaches the class along with Susan Maloney. “The kids are making friends and asking others to play and that is just great to see after four days of school.”
Children attend the program Monday through Friday in either the morning or afternoon session, both of which run three hours. Currently, 14 students attend the morning session, while eight are enrolled in the afternoon class.
Lehighton estimates around half of its incoming kindergarten students, around 140 on average each year, did not have exposure to a preschool program.
“It’s very difficult for a child at this age to step away from their family or home environment,” Maloney said. “They’re finding out early on though that learning can be fun. They are eager to come to school and are always very interested in what we’ll be doing tomorrow.”
During the first week, children have been learning songs, making glittery art projects and working on their cutting skills.
Thursday’s lesson also included recognizing patterns.
“We’ve gotten into a lot of academics already and I think that is amazing to see this early on,” Maloney said.
More impressive, Williams added, is that the students seem to be picking up the information quite easily.
“We’re very happy with the progress they made,” she said.
Lehighton has slots for 40 students this year, meaning there are still openings for parents who want to apply.
Tim Tkach, Lehighton’s assistant to the superintendent, said there is no cutoff date for parents to express interest. For more information, contact Tim Tkach at 610-377-4490, ext. 1540.
One of the most exciting parts for Maloney and Williams is how well students are showing their social skills in the classroom environment.
“They’re really coming out of their shell already,” they said. “They’re learning vocabulary they will be using as they move up here in Lehighton. We’ll build on that every day.”