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Graettinger-Terril School District Finds Success With Preschool

By Staff | Dec 9, 2008

GRAETTINGER-TERRIL PRESCHOOL - Children at Graettinger-Terril’s Preschool in Graettinger listen as a volunteer reads a story to them. The school district assumed control of the former Little Pirate Preschool approximately four years ago. Classes for three-, four-, and five-year olds are offered. – Lori Hall photo

GRAETTINGER – Graettinger is like many other small towns in America where the local school district is a focal point of community life. Approximately four years ago, the Graettinger-Terril Community School District took over Little Pirate Preschool, an independently run preschool in Graettinger, which had been operated by a board of parents.

“Little Pirate Preschool had been established in the community for some time, and the school district allowed them to have classrooms in the school,” said Graettinger-Terril Superintendent Dan Mart.

“I think it was more economical for the school to assume charge of the preschool,” noted Sara Fredericksen, who is the current preschool teacher at Graettinger-Terril. “With the school district in charge, there is also an established set of rules and discipline procedures to follow.”

Fredericksen, who majored in early childhood education, has a master’s degree in community learning. She is joined in the classroom by Stacy Girres, a teacher’s associate.

Graettinger is also home to a private preschool, operated by Tammy Peton and Sandy Olson, called Love and Learn Preschool.

“I don’t think there is much competition between the school district’s preschool and the private preschool,” shared Fredericksen. “Some families have a tradition of sending their children to the private one. Some families come to ours. It works out.”

Fredericksen explained that the school district’s preschool is able to accept additional children, even though it may be mid-year.

“We’re always willing to take on more kids,” said Fredericksen. “The purpose of preschool is to get children ready for Kindergarten. We work on getting used to a routine and simple, basic ideas.”

There are two separate preschool classes at Graettinger-Terril, drawing children from the Graettinger and Wallingford areas. The community of Terril also offers its own preschool class.

Three-year olds meet all day on Tuesday and Thursday, while four- and five-year olds meet all day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This fall, 11 three-year olds and 13 four- and five-year olds are enrolled in classes.

In the mornings, the children work on table activities, sing songs, and talk about the day’s calendar. During this time, the boys and girls can be pulled aside for small group activities. Next, there’s time for free play, snack break, and a time to review letters and sounds, colors, shapes, and patterning. After lunch and rest time, the four- and five-year old class enjoys P.E. or music. A volunteer from the library comes in to read a story, as well. Then, there’s milk and an afternoon snack.

“We always have stories throughout the day, both in the morning and afternoon,” said Fredericksen. “Right now we are learning Christmas songs, working on the preschool Christmas concert for the children’s families, and preparing for a visit from Santa.”

Funding for the preschool comes from both the preschool parents and the Graettinger-Terril school district.

“The school district takes care of funding for supplies and tuition,” Fredericksen explained. “An income-based PAK (Palo Alto/Kossuth Counties) Empowerment grant is available for parents. Empowerment will either fully fund or provide half of the tuition for parents.”

“Any difference is made up by the district,” Superintendent Mart added.

Fredericksen noted that the Graettinger-Terril Preschool has applied for a state preschool grant, but has yet to be named a recipient.

“The sooner we get students into the building, the better off we are,” concluded Mart. “At that age, they are so eager to learn and it’s so important for the district to capitalize on that.”