Early education

USD 109 to study in-house pre-school

By Deb Hadachek
Telescope editor

A plan always proposed as “someday” may become “next year” if the Republic County USD 109 board agrees.

Superintendent Mike Couch told the board Monday night that he and elementary principal Katie Struebing will begin serious study of whether to add a school-based preschool program in 2019-2020.

“We want to reach kids who have not had an opportunity for preschool,” Struebing told the board. “The biggest comment I had this year for kids coming into Kindergarten was for parents who looked for a pre-school for their children and couldn’t find one. It wasn’t for lack of trying by parents.”

Couch told the board it is not the district’s intention to compete with existing programs in Belleville, which includes Head Start, Republic County Developmental Center, Doodle Bug Academy, and Bible Buds, which are private childcare facilities.

Couch said it would be his intention to offer transportation and a sliding-fee scale based on income.

“I think it is absolutely necessary, but unless it includes transportation and a sliding-fee scale, I’ll be opposed,” board member Kevin Milner, Narka, told Couch. “If we’re going to have it, it has to be for everyone in the district, from Hardy to Mahaska to Talmo and Wayne.”

Couch said a pre-school program would require the addition of a teacher and a paraprofessional. With the expansion underway, he said he believes there is room in East Elementary for a pre-school. The RCDC was formerly located at East; it was later moved to the United Presbyterian Church.

Couch said he does not have an estimate of how many children a pre-school would serve. With the board’s blessing to move ahead Monday night, he said he and Struebing would make a more formal presentation at the December 10 board meeting, and ask the board to make a decision in February.