APS Column: Early childhood programming at Austin Public Schools

Published 6:12 pm Friday, March 10, 2023

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By Jennifer Lawhead

Early childhood education not only prepares children to be successful when they enter kindergarten, but begins the development of the social, emotional, and cognitive skills and behaviors that will positively impact their entire lives. Austin Public Schools serves around 400 students each year in our early childhood programming. This programming includes early childhood family education, early childhood special education, preschool programming, early childhood screening and Packer in Training.

Austin Public Schools is proud of our preschool programming. We offer four day a week programming, Monday-Thursday in a.m. and p.m. sections.

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We have programming for three-year-old and four-year-old students and are fortunate to have received grants from the state of Minnesota that allow us to offer scholarships for qualifying three-year-old students and all four-year-old students in our programs. The amount of learning that takes place in our preschool classrooms is astonishing. Students not only start to learn their letters and numbers, how to hold a pencil and cut with a scissors, but they learn about their feelings, how to self-regulate when they are mad, sad, or scared. All this learning is done through play and developmentally appropriate practices led by teachers licensed by the state of Minnesota and incredibly skilled and caring support staff.

We are opening registration for the 2023-24 school year to the public on March 15, and look forward to welcoming new families into our program in the fall.

Early childhood screening is required by the state of Minnesota prior to enrolling in kindergarten. This developmental screening includes a review of a child’s vision and hearing, social emotional development, motor, and cognitive development.

This screening helps communities identify students who may benefit from community or school support. Austin Public Schools offers screening twice each month to students ages 3-5.

Once your child turns three, please contact our program at 1-507-460-1709 to set up an appointment for screening.

For those children in the community who did not attend preschool and are starting kindergarten at Woodson Kindergarten Center in the fall, we have a unique opportunity this summer called Packer in Training.

Qualifying students have the chance to spend three weeks at Woodson in a classroom co-taught by an early childhood and kindergarten teacher where they learn the routines, procedures, and activities that they will participate in during their kindergarten year. If you know of a child who is entering Woodson in the fall and they have not attended preschool, please contact me at jennifer.lawhead@austin.k12.mn.us to learn more about this amazing summer opportunity.

We are so honored to work with our students, families and community in support of young children. As Maria Montessori, one of the pioneers of education says, “early childhood education is the key to the betterment of society.”