The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

July 11, 2014

Preschool, an overlooked necessity

ELDON — A sturdy foundation is an essential building block to any project that idea proves to be especially important in education.

Earlier this week, Cardinal Community School District Superintendent Joel Pedersen was invited by an assistant to Gov. Terry Branstad to the state capital for a meeting to discuss possible ways to increase 4-year-old preschool enrollment in low-income families.

"One of our biggest challenges is space and cost," explained Pedersen. "We are working with community partners and nonprofit organizations such as Wapello Mahaska Empowerment and Sieda Head Start to get funding."

Across the state, school districts are running into low preschool attendance rates with the three biggest obstacles being funding, transportation and parent awareness. Pedersen is passionate about reaching out to families and making sure these families know that Cardinal is not simply a school district but also a support system.

"We need to start with the heart and then educate their minds, and often times today we don't do that. We do the opposite of that," said Pedersen.

Building connections with families is one suggestion Pederson brought up during this weeks meeting. He would like to hire an individual to go out into the community and make connections with families before the start of a formal education.

"I want us to be able to provide support when they need it and then connect them with those support systems that they need," explained Pedersen.

Low-income families are a top priority for Pedersen who hopes that all children enrolled in the Cardinal district have the same educational opportunities. With 70 percent of the school's students under the poverty line, it is important to provide these students with as many future opportunities as possible.

Many people refer to preschool as "glorified day care," but that is not the case. These classrooms are filled with teachers excited to educate children on letter recognition and cognitive skills. The two years spent in preschool also gives children time to learn social norms such as working in teams, sitting still, regulating behavior and raising their hands.

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