During a recent school day in Mesa, two girls in the district’s preschool program at the Mesa Education Center practiced writing the names of their classmates at a small desk. Another group of girls “washed” their babies in a pretend tub.
A young boy worked on language skills on the classroom’s computer.
Mesa Unified School District hopes to create opportunities like these for more children next year as it expands its community education program.
Jordan Elementary School, 3320 N. Carriage Lane in Chandler, will become a preschool hub for Mesa beginning in August.
The district board voted in February to close Jordan Elementary as a neighborhood campus. The move will allow the district to open at least two more community education preschool classrooms at Jordan next year, in addition to moving programs there from other schools, said Tot Wallace, who directs the district’s community education program.
The district has about 20 community education preschool students at Jordan Elementary School now. Before- and after-school childcare, called “wraparound care,” will also be added.
A Montessori preschool room and a Head Start preschool room are also in the works, she said.
“There will be 450 to 500 kids on the campus for 2013-14 between special education and community education preschool, Montessori and Head Start,” she said. “What is really in high demand is wrap-around childcare with both parents working or working single parents. “
In addition, Mesa plans to open a preschool program at Red Mountain Ranch Elementary School, 6650 E. Raftriver in Mesa. It will start with two classrooms. Like the Jordan community education preschool programs, morning and afternoon sessions will be available, with childcare options before and after school.
The district and the county offer a number of programs in Mesa schools for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old students who are not in kindergarten. They include the tuition-based community education preschool, also called “pre-K,” and the First Things First-funded program. The Mesa Early Learning Preschool is a grant-funded program for low-income families. Child development centers in several high schools offer preschool for young children, while giving high school students career training under a licensed early childhood instructor. In addition, there are tuition-based spots for “typical” children in special education preschool classrooms. There, those students serve as peer role models.
Registration began March 7 for some tuition-based Mesa district preschool programs. In April the application and registration process beings for the Mesa Early Learning Preschool and First Things First, which is funded through a voter-approved, statewide tobacco tax.
Districtwide there are about 1,000 students in the community education preschools this year, and an additional 1,200 students in the district’s special education preschool program, Wallace said.
With the new classrooms and programs, another 200 may get the same opportunities.
“It’s a moving target. It depends on getting word out. It won’t be long and we’ll be full. That’s what happened when we moved to Powell. Community education moved to Powell and word got around and we were full,” she said.
After the district closed Powell Junior High School a few years, it opened an early childhood learning program there in site, which it renamed the Mesa Education Center, 855 W. Eighth Ave.
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