Spokane Public Schools adds more preschool opportunities, starts pilot program for young kids

SPOKANE, Wash.– Spokane Public Schools now has more opportunities to help young kids grow.

The school district has nearly doubled its preschool classrooms this year from having around 330 slots in the 2020- 2021 school year to nearly 600 for the 2021-2022 school year.

That number for this year also includes a pilot program the district just started called “Transitional Kindergarten.” The program helps kids ages four and five to get ready for regular school days.

Karin Thompson, the district’s director of early learning, says the new program is meant to be a bridge between preschool and kindergarten.

“It’s giving them an extra push and extra support and exposure to the classroom setting and to the school setting,” Thompson said.

Early learning is important for young kids to jumpstart their education, said Angela Haberman, the district’s early learning coordinator.

“Preschool is critical to help kids get ready for kindergarten. The social-emotional development is what we’re focusing on primarily. Although we know when kids feel safe and they want to be here and want to learn, they’re more successful academically,” Haberman said.

Preschool is meant to help kids grow social skills and learn how to be around others through what districts call social-emotional learning. Thompson said it’s not so much about learning numbers and letters but making sure kids can communicate effectively, too. Learning the alphabet and numbers happens more in kindergarten, Thompson added.

Spokane mom Nicolette Patlan saw how preschool changed her youngest daughter’s education. The COVID-19 pandemic made learning more difficult for daughters, especially her youngest.

“She really kind of missed those learning blocks as much as we tried,” Patlan said.

That changed when she stepped foot into preschool at Holmes Elementary this year.

“She has more structure. She understands boundaries better. She can communicate better. Her speech has gotten a lot better,” Patlan said.

Transitional Kindergarten is currently only in three schools right now. Thompson said they plan to expand that program as well as add more preschool classrooms in the next school year. To learn about the different programs for preschool and what qualifications are needed, click here. 

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