Program eases stress

FAIRMONT – When a child starts kindergarten, the process can be frightening and stressful for children and parents alike, so Kinder Prep helps ease the anxiety.

Although Kinder Prep is held at Fairmont Elementary School, students and staff come from local parochial schools as well.

“It shouldn’t be just public school students benefiting from this program,” said Michelle Rosen, K-2 principal at Fairmont Elementary.

Kinder Prep, which began Monday, runs from 7:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for eight days.

This year, Kinder Prep drew 104 students, the same as last year. In 2012, the first year of the program, 98 students participated.

Students are split into four classrooms, each staffed by two teachers. This year’s staff includes nine teachers: three from St. John Vianney Catholic School, two from Fairmont Elementary, two from Early Childhood Special Education and two from Early Childhood Family Education.

The extra teacher serves as a float.

“The ninth teacher is doing assessments,” Rosen said. “She’s able to float and help in the classroom, plus we have a constant person doing assessments. It will help give the parents an idea of what they need to do before school starts.”

Kinder Prep helps transition a child from home to the initial classroom experience. They learn school protocol, where to stand, where the bathrooms are, playground rules, even how to carry a lunch tray.

“They get the experience of eating breakfast and eating lunch and riding the bus to school,” Rosen said. “We utilize the resources we’re already using.”

Kinder Prep is scheduled during the summer school session at the elementary school.

“The buses are already coming here. The food already is here. We just add our Kinder Prep kids,” Rosen said. “We add a few more [bus] stops and a few more kids.”

Rosen operates Kinder Prep on a $12,000 budget, used mostly for staff and supplies. Costs are curtailed by using the transportation and food service staff already working during the summer session.

Funding comes in the form of grants from entities such as Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, a strong supporter of early childhood education.

And it’s money well spent, Rosen said.

“It’s very successful. They (kindergartners) are not as scared that first day of school. They’re ready to learn. I see it being easier on the parents too. It’s a great way to start the routine of getting to bed early and getting up early.”