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Youths 3 and 4 eligible for new Jefferson County School District 509-J program

 - JCSD 509J Preschool teacher Melinda Grote, left, and teacher aide Dyklecia Smith-Plazola welcomed new students into the classroom Monday.

One state grant plus one classroom renovation equals a new preschool in Jefferson County School District 509J.

Of course, there were a lot of other factors involved in the equation, but the district now offers a preschool program for children whose families meet the income requirement.

JCSD 509J Preschool opened in the Career and Technical Education wing of Madras High School on Monday morning, Nov. 16 with a handful students, and there are still a several spots available.

Bridges High School Principal Jay Weeks, who oversees the teen parent and preschool program for the district, said the school district received $242,750 from the state for Preschool Promise. Preschool Promise is a state-wide initiative to increase the number of quality, affordable spaces for children ages 3 or 4 years old.

These state funds included operating costs and facility renovation with the classroom and outdoor area at MHS.

"The early years in education are so important in building the foundation for a student's success in education, and when we had the opportunity to add another preschool to Jefferson County, we wanted to provide that for our families and community," Weeks said. "Providing preschool gives families another option for their children to attend preschool and prepare them for kindergarten."

JCSD 509J Preschool is located in the former MHS in-school suspension classroom, which is the in same wing as the Early Childhood program where the school operates CTE classes and the Child Care Center.

Weeks said the school district has not operated a preschool before.

"This creates an early learning area for both our preschool students as well as our high school students pursuing a career in early childhood education," Weeks said. "High school students will not start with us in the preschool program due to COVID-19 regulations, but we do plan on incorporating them once we are allowed in the guidance."

 - Teacher aide Dyklecia Smith-Plazola, left, and preschool teacher Melinda Grote set out supplies for their students at JCSD 509J Preschool. The new school opened this week inside Madras High School and can serve up to 18 children from qualifying families.Once allowed, high school students will be involved in the preschool through the Career Technical Education pathway in Early Childhood Education located at Madras High School.

The preschool program uses the Oregon Learning Guideline standards, focusing on language and social skills, large and small motor skills, and number sense and literacy skills. The program will use a balance of play, individual, small group and whole group instruction in order to prepare preschool students academically and socially for kindergarten.

The program is free for up to 18 students. To be eligible for Preschool Promise, children must be living at the 200% poverty level. Currently, that rate is $52,400 a year for a family of four.

Families may apply through the High Desert Education Service District Early Learning Hub.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on school days with drop-off and breakfast beginning at 8:45 a.m. Students will also have lunch at school, and transportation is provided if necessary. Students must attend school 85% or more of the time to be eligible.

Julie Mitchell serves as the child care director, Melinda Grote is the preschool teacher, and Dyklecia Smith-Plazola is the teacher aide.

MountainStar Family Relief Nursery and Rocking Horse Childcare/Preschool also offer Preschool Promise schools in Jefferson County.

Weeks said the school district is looking at expansion in the future if more funds from the state become available for Preschool Promise.

"We are excited to provide a preschool experience for our families that will create a strong foundation for our students to be ready for kindergarten academically, socially and emotionally," Weeks said.


JCSD 509J Preschool

Families with children 3 or 4 years old on Sept. 1, 2020, who are interested in applying may contact the Early Learning Hub at 541-693-5622.

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