Coupeville educates small students

In recent years teachers have noticed more kindergarten students not fully prepared to attend Coupeville Elementary School.

To ensure more kindergartners are ready for the rigors of first grade, school officials are instituting a new program that focuses on children ages 2 and 3 years old. It also teaches parents the skills necessary to foster a love and respect for learning in their children.

School officials will do this by visiting parents in their home to ensure families get the support they need.

Elementary school principal Glenda Merwine said the Parent-Child Home Program helps empower parents to become a child’s first and most important educator.

“We, for the last three years, have had so many kindergartners not ready for school,” Merwine said.

She said teachers have seen more students with behavior problems and not able to follow such simple directions as taking off their coats. She said there have been incoming kindergartners who haven’t been potty trained.

“It’s depressing to see how ill prepared these kids are coming into kindergarten,” Merwine said during a recent Coupeville School Board meeting.

To help families, a school employee will visit them in their homes to help parents prepare their child for school. They will also receive a book and an educational toy to get started.

Merwine said 2-year-olds should develop an appreciation of books and learn how to hold and use a book. In the second year, the children should start focusing on words and learn basic rhyming.

Educators have found that if students are familiar with the alphabet before entering kindergarten it helps them reach reading competencies in the third grade.

“If, by the age of four, they have no alphabet knowledge, then they are already in trouble,” said Sheila O’Rourke, Coupeville Elementary School counselor.

The Parent-Child Home Program originated in New York in the mid-1960s. Since then it has grown to more than 140 locations in the United States. Proponents have found the program helps build strong language and literacy skills and supports social-emotional development. Families often learn the value of reading together and parents often become more involved in their children’s education, according to information from the Parent-Child Home Program.

It will cost the Coupeville School District $2,000 to $2,500 per family for the program. The money will come from state and federal sources. The district is hiring a part-time employee to coordinate the new program.

“We feel this program will fill a big gap in terms of kids coming into school without any preschool experience,” Superintendent Bill Myhr said. The Coupeville School District currently has a preschool for special education students.

Merwine said between 15 and 18 families should be identified for the program scheduled to start this fall. That number could double next year.

The Coupeville School District is putting up posters in churches and doctor’s offices in the area to tell families about the new program. School officials are also identifying students in the school district who have younger siblings that may benefit from the two-year program.

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