Paige Raney, the chief academic officer of Guntersville City Schools and the pre-K director, was one of many helping unpack boxes Monday for the new pre-K classroom at Guntersville Elementary School. A big truck rolled in Monday morning with everything needed to outfit the new pre-K unit. 

The new classroom will give Guntersville Elementary 3 pre-K rooms for the 2019-20 school year. 

The new classroom is funded by a grant from the Office of School Readiness (OSR) from the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education under commissioner Jeana Ross, who lives in Guntersville.  

With this grant, the school was able to place another 18 students in the pre-K program. Raney said that if they had room, they would expand the program. It is a huge need for the Schools of Guntersville.

This grant also supplies the teachers with assistance. The OSR staff will help with setting up stations around the classroom and giving guidance to teachers on some activities to do with the students. 

Helping set up the classroom  on Monday, July 8, were several members of the OSR staff, some of the staff from GES along with a few volunteers. The group worked about four hours or so on completing the classroom. They had to assemble furniture, get materials ready for lessons and set up the classroom for the students. 

They ordered the supplies from Lake Shore out of California. Raney said that they have been in constant conversation with the company about the delivery. She was impressed with their punctuality. The company said that it would be at the school by 10 a.m. and they arrived around 9:30 a.m.

The school is currently doing interviews for the auxiliary teachers, but they should have a decision made by their next board meeting  July 18. 

The pre-K classroom is also having a new air conditioner installed for humidity control. 

One of the main reasons for the grant and expansion of pre-K at Guntersville Elementary is because of the extensive waiting list, Raney said. Early childhood programs such as pre-K help students be better prepared for their upcoming school years and aids in the learning process.

With the pre-K program, the students are able to be exposed to the structure of a classroom so it is not as big of a shock when they move into kindergarten. They have already been exposed to the school environment. 

Raney said that Alabama is number one in its pre-K programs. This shows that the state is committed to children and helping them thrive in our communities.

The pre-k students will not stay as long as a typical student. Their hours will end at 2:15 p.m. while the other classes will be longer. 

In this program, the teacher will be assessing the students and tracking their development. The teachers will be trained by the OSR in how to assess the students. Raney said that the teacher will have someone there to assist in any issues that may arise in the classroom. 

OSR will be providing coaches for the teacher to help them improve. Besides that, they will have monitors as well. The monitors will be helping with paper work and other issues, but a coach will help with the children. 

The students will be assessed in social situations, gross motor skills and tracking development. They will be working in centers for these skills over the entire year. 

For the pre-K program, the tuition cost is at most $100 a month. It is based on a sliding scale and based on income. Breakfast and lunch are included. 

Raney said that if space was available, they would expand the pre-K program even more. Right now, they will have about one-third of the students who go to kindergarten in the preschool program. She would like to see that be half or better. 

This grant helps cover the cost of the teachers as well as the essentials for the classroom. For the most part, the school will not have to replace the items that can be reused. Raney said such items include books and puppets, but they will have to replace items such as paper and paint. 

One benefit to the grant is that if the teachers' state salary goes up, so does the grant for the teachers that it covers, Raney said.

The Schools of Guntersville follow the enrollment policies on accepting students into their pre-K program. This program is only for those students who are living in the city limits of Guntersville. They may expand if they do not have enough interest or if they are able to expand the classrooms. 

When school starts back in August, Guntersville Elementary School will have 54 pre-K students. All of the students who will be in the pre-K program have already been selected and called. This is done through a random draw. 

Raney is extremely excited about the upcoming school year and is ready to watch these future pre-K students learn in their new classrooms. 

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