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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Timberlane launches 'integrated' preschool

From the Eagle Tribune;

Timberlane launches 'integrated' preschool
By Margo Sullivan

ATKINSON — In a milestone for the Timberlane Regional School District, Atkinson Academy will open a new "integrated" preschool, blending special and regular education children — in roughly equal numbers — in the same classroom.

"We want to show parents this is a wonderful setting for their children as they move toward kindergarten," said Edwina Lovett, district director of pupil personnel services.

In a blended classroom, parents should expect special education children to improve communication skills, while regular education children develop tolerance and acceptance, Lovett said.

Although the benefits of including special education children with regular education students have long been known, federal stimulus money is now providing the opportunity to put the theory into practice, she said.

Timberlane is receiving $987,016 in stimulus money for special education, Superintendent Richard La Salle announced last spring. The money can be spent over three years and is to be paid in two installments. In addition, the district also is receiving $35,860, in two installments, for preschool.

Lovett said the stimulus money will pay for a special education teacher, an aide and curriculum materials (such as books, toys and manipulatives) for two years. After that, the goal is to make the program self-sustaining by charging regular education students tuition.

The new preschool, which is for 4-year-old children, starts Sept. 1 with about 26 students, Principal Kathy Dayotis said. Thirteen youngsters will attend the morning session, and 13 have enrolled in the afternoon preschool. Each session has a regular education teacher and a special education teacher, as well as a special education aide.

Stimulus money will not be used to hire the regular education teacher, Lovett said, because the money must go to special education.

Only children from Atkinson have been accepted. So far, there is no plan to start integrated preschools at the other district elementary schools, Lovett said.

However, Timberlane parents have long been able to send their 3- and 4-year-old children to the district's first preschool at Pollard Elementary in Plaistow, and that program will continue, Pollard School Principal Michelle Auger said.

Auger said the Pollard preschool has three classes and although disabled and non-disabled children can attend, historically the preschool has enrolled far more special education than regular education students. Auger estimates only 10 percent of the Pollard preschool youngsters have been regular education students, and the result has not been "true inclusion," she said.

The new preschool, which is a pilot program for the Timberlane Regional School District, will bring the district close to a state target for preschool education, Lovett said. The state target is a 50/50 mix of regular and special education students. The Atkinson preschool is expected to have 60 percent special education children and 40 percent regular education, she said.


Anonymous said...

What does stimulus money have to do with a preschool program? I thought the whole point of the stimulus package(s) was to spark the ecomony?

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:36,

It appears the school was able to employ a teacher and an aide with the funding they received. That looks like job creation to me.

Anonymous said...

WOW youre right that is stimulus! Only the government can spend $937,000 to create a $45,000/yr. and a $25,000/yr. job!

Anonymous said...

Anon: 7:35

Right on. Wait until health care in the hands of the government. We're doomed.

Anonymous said...

I know, can you imagine, pretty soon they'll think the government should handle national defense, and i bet they they'll screw that up!

Anonymous said...

actually National Defense is the ONLY thing in this set of comments that the federal government is supposed to do in the constitution.