USD 457 board discusses progress at Garfield

1/8/2013

Educators hope to increase enrollment.

Educators hope to increase enrollment.

BY RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

The first semester at Garfield Early Childhood Center was a developing and learning experience, school officials told the USD 457 Board of Education Monday night during a regularly-scheduled meeting.

The center, formerly Garfield Elementary School, opened in the fall. The center now houses all early childhood programs that the district offers.

Administrators say the arrangement is ideal, as the early childhood educators can collaborate and work together as a team.

Josh Guymon, principal, recounted a successful first semester at the center.

"I have to give props to the staff. They've gelled together very well," he said.

In the future, building officials say they would like to catch even more children who need pre-kindergarten attention, to address their learning needs.

Diane Fleming, special education coordinator, said some Garden City children are missed and go into school not ready.

She said some 5-year-olds are sometimes 2 to 2 1/2 years delayed from their peers.

"I hate to see that we're missing some kids," she said.

She said the children may be at home with a grandparent or someone who may need guidance on getting the child ready for school.

Guymon said some potential students are turned away because they have not been potty-trained, which is a requirement to attend the school. Fleming and administrators plan to brainstorm other ideas to catch more children who need more attention before kindergarten.

BOE members then discussed how some children who are behind, or need extra attention, are passed to first grade after one year of kindgergarten.

Gloria Hopkins, BOE member, suggested the district look at kindergarten as a process.

She said she wanted to stress how important early childhood development is to the community.

"You can't just push kids through. Kids have to become confident learners. And that's going to take some time," she said.

She said kindergarten could be a one- to two-year process, and once students meet specific goals, they can be passed to first grade.

Mark Rude, BOE member, agreed and commended the center's officials for getting students ready for kindergarten.

"There is still such a wide spectrum of kids with different skills. I don't know if it's a stigma or culture, but some parents don't want to see their children held back," he said.

Currently, 478 children attend the center, which is up from the Sept. 20, 2012, count of 419. English as a second language students are down by one from 118 on Sept. 20 to 117 currently. Students with IEPs, or Individual Education Plans, are up from 136 on Sept. 20 to 183 now, according to administrators.

The appearance of the building also is being updated, Guymon said. Painters are matching the older section of the building to the new addition.

A building dedication for the center was held Oct. 14.

Garfield Early Childhood Center houses early childhood/special education programs, early learning for 4-year olds, a migrant 3-year-old program, a migrant family literacy program, Parents as Teachers and PAT play group, and a speech group.

In November 2008, voters approved a $97.5 million facilities upgrade project that called for the new, $92.5 million high school to be built. The project resulted in Garfield Elementary School becoming an early childhood center, Abe Hubert Middle School was converted into an elementary school, and the former GCHS building was turned into Horace Good Middle School.

A screening is coming up on Jan. 18 for children 3 to 5 years old at the center, 121 W. Walnut St. The screening will take about an hour and a half and will include checking hearing, vision, large and small muscle development, communication and thinking skills.

Appointments may be made starting today by calling the center, 805-7503.

Also at Monday's meeting, Theresa Dasenbrock, of Lewis Hooper & Dick, gave a report on the recommendations discussed by the Governor's Task Force on School Efficiency. Dasenbrock was chosen as a representative to the task force.

Although the recommendations are not final before they head to the governor's desk, Dasenbrock gave the board some examples of recommendations discussed.

Those recommendations included establishing a two-year cycle for the school funding process, placing emphasis on timely state aid payments to schools, looking at the formula for the state's obligation on construction bonds, developing a state-wide accounting system for schools, restructuring capital outlay, broadening capital outlay expenditures, requiring districts to establish a five-year capital outlay program, allowing districts to have the ability to adjust salaries in certain areas with narrowed-down negotiations and consolidating some districts, while having some school officials be designated to multiple schools.

Dasenbrock said school consolidation wasn't a main focus of the task force, but some smaller districts may have to combine in order to stay open.

Before many of the recommendations pass the governor's desk, studies will be conducted for more information, Dasenbrock said.

The board also recognized Abe Hubert Elementary School, Edith Scheuerman Elementary School, Horace Good Middle School and Kenneth Henderson Middle School for receiving the Standard of Excellence Awards for the 2011-12 school year.

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