Golden Apple: Pine River-Backus Adds All-Day Preschool
After riding the bus to school and starting at 8 a.m., preschoolers at Pine-River Backus Elementary will take on a full day of normal school activities.
“We go to the library, the computer lab, music class, cafeteria and use the gym in the elementary school, so we are using more resources in the elementary school,” said School Readiness Coordinator Molly Hoffarth.
Each week Hoffarth – Miss Molly to the students – introduces a new letter into the classroom; this week’s lesson is on the letter “F.”
“More parents are working, so to have to the kids go to a place where they are not only taken care of but they are also learning is a blessing,” Hoffarth said.
A trial period took place last school year to get feedback on the possible program.
“We were able to tailor our program to what works for families, people that are working and those types of things,” Pine-River Backus Elementary Principal Rick Aulie.
There are currently 40 full day preschoolers who come to school two days a week. This includes three different combinations of days to attend, depending what works better for the families.
“We feed them all breakfast and lunch. It’s free for all kids, so there is no tuition and there is no cost at all to families,” Aulie said.
From the school side, there was just a small increase in cost. “There was an increase in staffing costs, but we were able to offset a lot of that with the voluntary pre-k dollars we received from the state,” Aulie said.
The program is a change that parents, staff members and children are adjusting well to.
“Most of them do just fine – they are a little bit tired in the morning if they are not used to getting up. But for the most part, they are here, happy, playing and learning,” Hoffarth said.
The shift to full day preschool will likely continue to expand in the future.
“The State of Minnesota and our administration here at Pine River-Backus is really putting a lot of effort into noticing early childhood and its importance. I hope that other school districts are starting to consider this too, because I think the benefits are really positive,” Hoffarth said.