Readiness program expands to Eastern Hancock

HANCOCK COUNTY — Walking the hallways in a straight line, getting on the school bus, opening a milk carton.

They are simple tasks for many school children — but a challenge for those coming to class for the first time. Kindergarten 101, a program coming to Eastern Hancock Elementary next school year, seeks to help children who have not attended preschool or structured day care prepare for the start of school.

Hancock County Purdue Extension and the Eastern Hancock Education Foundation are co-sponsoring the program, which will be held at no cost to the school district or the children who attend, said Amanda Pyle, elementary school principal.

Prospects for the program were identified at Eastern Hancock’s kindergarten roundup last week.

The program will take place the last full week before the beginning of the 2016-17 school year and will consist of half days, Monday through Thursday, and a longer day that will include a lunch period Friday. 

The education foundation will cover the cost of staff members, including a teacher and a counselor; high school students also will volunteer to help, Pyle said. 

Children will receive one age-appropriate book per day and a backpack, and snacks will be provided, Pyle said. The program is open to all incoming kindergarten students, but first consideration is given to children who did not attend preschool or day care.

“We are creating the opportunity for kids to experience things at school so it isn’t as overwhelming on the first day of school,” Pyle said. “There will be a lot of academic content and crafts, but the goal is just to get the kids in the building.” 

Eastern Hancock is the second school district in the county to offer the program; this marks the fifth year Greenfield-Central schools will host Kindergarten 101.

The program was born out of a meeting among county stakeholders to discuss education initiatives in 2011; educators identified school readiness as their primary concern, said Megan Addison, Purdue Extension educator.

The program began with Greenfield-Central school, and Purdue Extension reached out to Eastern Hancock officials earlier this year to gauge their interest in expanding the program to the district.

The goal of Kindergarten 101 is to make sure county youths have a good first experience with school, Addison explained. 

Prospective kindergartners are not the only ones who learn through the program, however; their parents are also asked to attend an evening meeting, where they will learn things like school policies, how to contact a teacher, and how the lunch money system works, she said. 

The parent component of the program is special, said Greenfield-Central assistant superintendent Ann Vail, and follow up surveys of past participants in Kindergarten 101 have shown lots of happy feedback from parents and students.

“We can see the positive effects of that social/emotional preparation,” she said. “The students are read to, they get a book to take home, and they start thinking about the curriculum in a way that gets them excited about school.”

Extension staff members hope to eventually expand the Kindergarten 101 program into all four county school districts, Addison said. 

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.