This summer, incoming kindergarten students in the St. Marys Area School District will be able to boost their skills and prepare for the school experience through the Kindergarten Readiness Program (KRP).
KRP is designed to help students assimilate to the school setting, become comfortable interacting with instructors and other children, and and help build skills in listening, communication, socialization, fine and gross motor skills, cooperation, following rules and directions, recognizing letters, numbers and sounds and learning proper printing techniques. The program is open to all students registered for kindergarten at South St. Marys Street, Fox Township and Bennetts Valley elementary schools and is being offered in the district at no cost to families or the district through a $2,000 grant from Women Who Care, a charitable organization comprised of a "giving circle" of area women who pool funds and award grants to strengthen the quality of life for families in Elk County communities.
Students will attend kindergarten readiness two days a week in two and a half-hour sessions over a six-week period between June 11 and July 23, with both morning and evening sessions offered depending on the number of students who enroll. The program is facilitated by Dickinson Center Inc.'s LIFE program staff. Deborah Freeburg, a caseworker with Dickinson, will be the lead KRP instructor. She has more than 15 years of experience with the LIFE program and mental health casework, and is also a certified elementary education teacher. She said KRP has been offered in the Johnsonburg Area School District for a number of years and has proven to be very successful there.
"I’ve taught that program for several years. The parents have always raved about it,” Freeburg said.
Wanting to incorporate the program in the St. Marys district as well, Freeburg applied for a grant from Women Who Care, whose funds are administered by the Elk County Community Foundation, and received the necessary amount to bring the program to SMASD students. She said KRP helps prime students for success in the upcoming school year and ease both their academic and social transition to kindergarten, particularly those who may not be emotionally or academically ready for all-day kindergarten.
"We’re going to work on literacy and letter formation, reading readiness skills, acclimation to the school environment, routine, and peer interaction and social skills,” Freeburg said. This is just kind of like their stepping stone. It’s kind of getting their feet wet, having them take baby steps, because eventually they’ll be there all day, every day."