The pre-kindergarten (preK) students at Vassalboro Community School (VCS) now have their own playground sized for four-year-olds, thanks to the Southern Kennebec Regional Development Corporation’s Head Start program.
The new playground, funded entirely by Head Start and designed with input from Vassalboro’s preK staff, is close enough to the older students’ area so siblings can wave to each other, but each group has its own facilities. For the preK group, there are a climbing castle and a swing set on a circle of wood-chip-covered ground.
The youngsters have a 40-minute daily recess to use the new playground. “They love it,” VCS Principal Megan Allen said.
The Head Start grant that provided the playground has been extended to December, Allen said. Additional funds will buy four tricycles, plus safety helmets, for preK students.
Vassalboro’s preK program is in its fifth year, runs five full days a week and has 18 students, its highest enrollment so far. There are three full-time staff: veteran VCS preK teachers Jessica Field and Sarah Page and educational technician Danielle Plossay. Page is a Head Start employee and spends part of her time providing the in-home services that are part of Head Start programs; Field and Plossay are VCS employees.
Allen said the playground project involved working with two “fantastic” women from the Regional Development Corporation, Agency Director Cristina Salois and Program Manager Melissa Savage.
The larger playground is limited during school hours to students five years old and older, probably, Allen surmised, to meet insurance regulations. Both areas are used by families after school and on weekends, she said.
The PreK program began almost entirely separate from the rest of the VCS community, Allen said, but preK students are getting involved in more and more school experiences. The plan is to have the youngest students “integrated into the school environment as much as possible.”
They’re sharing the cafeteria; a few minutes after the preK children sit down to eat the kindergartners join them and after a few more minutes the first-graders. Classes are small enough so the space is neither too noisy nor too crowded, Allen commented.
Beginning in October, the preK students will have a turn at music, gym time, library visits, computer work and other additions to classroom teaching, just as the older students do.
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