“There’s a great need out there” Future of pre-k programs in Vigo County discussed

(WTHI Photo)

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – Getting little ones into the classroom early is proving successful in Vigo County.

“We just see a lot of growth in children,” said Christi Fenton, Director of Elementary Education, “So that when they get to kindergarten, they are ready to buckle down a little bit.”

Vigo County has provided pre-kindergarten service for 4-year-olds since 2009. This year, more than 200 children are enrolled at 10 of their Title I sites, which has 20 pre-kindergarten programs total.

While there are programs available, Fenton says they are half-day, which can be inconvenient for parents. Also, Fenton says there are limited spots, even waiting lists at different locations.

“We’re missing a lot of kids and we’re able to provide opportunities for a handful of children,” Fenton said.

Plans to expand could be in the works. There are several ideas Fenton says they’re looking at such as the concept of Early Learning Centers, adding them to the three high schools following renovations, as well as piloting a parent option to pay for pre-k/daycare at Lost Creek and Riley Schools. However, the goal to expand, Fenton says, doesn’t have to be solely on the school corporation.

“We want to do it as a community,” she said, “and as a community we do have some opportunities to get some state funding. We just want to be on the forefront of that to make sure that all kids have an opportunity to have pre-k if they want it.”

Fenton says there are concerns in regards to child retention costs, which can be thousands per child.

“If we’re having to spend the money by retaining children, it’d be nice to be able to take that money up front and put it into a pre-k program and get them ready for kindergarten,” she said.

Fenton also presented to the Vigo County School Corporation Board of Trustees at their meeting Monday night to get feedback and guidance for the future. Going forward, there’s a lot to consider, but Fenton says they’ll continue to seek input and explore possibilities to provide the best education possible.

“Of course there’s other programs in the community that are strong, well founded programs,” she said, “but we have a lot of kids that don’t have an opportunity for anything, and so there’s a great need out there.”

Fenton says she’d also like to see an expansion of the Little Braves and Vikes and Tykes program. These programs offer pre-k and daycare at Terre Haute South Vigo and West Vigo High School. They also include experience for high school students taking Child Development classes. The programs are offered to children of employees within the school corporation.