Preschool Program Set to Move
The Wetzel County Board of Education voted unanimously April 22 to move the New Martinsville area’s pre-school program from the Wetzel County Center for children and Families to New Martinsville School.
The issue on the move had been tabled since January.
Interim Superintendent Jay Yeager supplied board members with handouts, concerning the rationale for moving the pre-school program from the WCCCF to New Martinsville School.
Yeager stated that the New Martinsville area pre-school program is the only pre-school program that is not housed at the local elementary school in Wetzel County, as Long Drain School, Paden City Elementary School, and Short Line School all house their own pre-school programs. Yeager noted that the WCCCF was chosen to house the pre-school over 20 years ago because NMS, at the time, did not have the adequate classroom space for the pre-school program. “That is no longer the case,” Yeager noted. “Declining enrollment at New Martinsville School has freed up more than enough classroom space for the pre-school program.”
Yeager noted that four year olds who attend WCCCF must adjust to two transitional periods, one of those being from home to pre-school at WCCCF. Those pre-schoolers then have to adjust again the next year from attending school at WCCCF to kindergarten at New Martinsville School. “The placement of the pre-school program at New Martinsville School would eliminate the need for a second transition,” Yeager noted.
According to Yeager, the placement of the pre-school program at New Martinsville School would allow “for a true pre-school program to exist in one building with the kindergarten.”
“Since all teachers who are assigned to pre-school are required to hold pre-school special needs certification, they could serve students in the kindergarten program who are identified as pre-school special needs on Fridays and on other days that pre-school is not in session,” Yeager noted. “Kindergarten teachers do not hold special needs certification and legally cannot provide those services to those identified kindergarten students. Intervention at the earliest stages of a child’s education is the key for academic success in the later grades.”
Furthermore, the housing of the pre-school program at New Martinsville School would allow the program to be in a school with a principal available, along with two assistant principals. Yeager stated that there has never been an administrator housed at the WCCCF. “This would allow for the easier investigation of suspected abuse of students by adults, diffusing problems between families and the school, better security for the pre-schoolers, and assistance and supervision of both the students and the staff.”
The move to New Martinsville School “would decrease the ride time on school buses for our youngest children who attend our county school system.” Yeager noted that presently, pre-school students in the New Martinsville area are required to ride the school bus to NMS every morning, eat breakfast at the school, wait at the school until after 8 a.m., board another bus and ride to the WCCCF, leave the WCCCF at 2:30 p.m. and ride the bus back to NMS, wait in the cafeteria until their school bus leaves at 3:30 p.m., and then arrive home.”
“Some of these little ones leave home shortly after 6:30 a.m. and don’t arrive back home until almost 5 p.m.,” Yeager noted. With a pre-school program located at NMS, this would eliminate nearly 40 minutes of bus riding time per day.
A move to NMS would also create a positive impact on school lunches, according to Yeager, who noted that there is not a kitchen at the WCCCF. Lunches are transported to the center for the pre-school program. Pre-packaged food are often used and a “semi-hot” lunch is served. Also, pre-schoolers transported to the WCCCF by their parents do not have the opportunity to eat breakfast since there is no kitchen and no cook on duty in the mornings. “The pre-school program being located at New Martinsville School would allow a hot lunch and breakfast and snack to be served on a daily basis for all pre-schoolers.
Furthermore, Yeager noted that the K-1 (Kindergarten thru First Grade) building at New Martinsville School “was designed and built for small children, whereas the WCCCF was designed and built for high school students and adults.” He added that the K-1 building at NMS, which would become the pre-school/kindergarten building “is better designed to accommodate four year olds than the WCCCF.”
The rationale supplied by Yeager included several questions and answers concerning the move, such as where the pre-school classrooms would be located at NMS.
Yeager stated that the classrooms would be located in the K-1 building at NMS. The first grade classrooms would be relocated to the “2-4” wing of the building. Yeager also noted that all teachers at NMS have been informed concerning the possible move. Furthermore, all the existing agencies using the WCCCF would be allowed to stay in the building.
Yeager noted that white boards would be installed in the new first grade rooms. Also, the pre-school program would have access to the K-1 gymnasium and the stage area in the K-1 building if access to a large room, such as the one they currently have at WCCCF, is needed.
According to Yeager, the move of the pre-school program would begin immediately after the last day of school on June 5. Extra summer help is being employed so that the move of all rooms can happen prior to the start of the new school year in August. Teachers would be paid an extra day at the end of the school year and at the beginning of the next school year to unpack their rooms. “Teachers and aides at the WCCCF could be given the same opportunity if needed,” Yeager noted.
Yeager noted that there is nothing to be gained by waiting another year. “The move cannot happen until school is over for students,” he stated. “The window of time for the move would be the same.”
Furthermore, the board of education has budgeted money for a pre-school playground and trikeolopolis. “These would be installed before the start of the next school year at New Martinsville School.”
After Yeager’s presentation, Yeager, along with Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Pre-K, and Title I Shane Highley answered several additional questions from the board members regarding the move. Yeager stated that there would be four classrooms for pre-schoolers, which Highley stated would still leave an additional room for almost every grade. Yeager also reassured the board that the quantity of students in classrooms would not be a concern, as rules for pre-school require there to be a certain amount of space per each student.
Board Member Carolyn Gatian inquired about the traffic situation at New Martinsville School. “Is New Martinsville School going to be able to handle the increase in traffic?” she questioned.
Yeager noted that 10 years ago there was almost “double the school population.”
“We don’t have that now,” he noted.
Board Member Linda Kirk added that most of the pre-schoolers at New Martinsville School will already have a sibling who attends the school, which would mean that some of the drop-offs would be the same parent.
“I just want to make sure we are offering the same service,” Board Member Joshua Balcerek noted. “We are doing a good job at the WCCCF, keeping the pre-schoolers segregated from the older kids.”
“It is a very nice facility for pre-school,” Highley noted, adding that the three other elementary schools in the county house their pre-schoolers. “They score just as well on tests,” he noted. “It’s not about the room. It’s about the teaching.”
“At New Martinsville School, they will be in the K-1 building,” Yeager reiterated. “It’s almost a separate wing to that complex up there, where at Short Line School, we don’t have necessarily kindergarten and pre-school together.”
The board then voted on the matter, unanimously agreeing to move the New Martinsville pre-school program to New Martinsville School.