The application deadline for admission into Dothan’s new Early Childhood Development Center, which will be housed in the current Honeysuckle Middle School, is fast approaching.
All eight classrooms, currently spread among Girard, Cloverdale, Kelly Springs, Faine, and Morris Slingluff elementary schools, are part of Alabama’s state-funded First Class Pre-K Program.
The program aims to prepare age four children for classroom structure, learning routines, and school rules, and give them exposure to academics and socialization.
“For a lot of our students, this is their very first time in school, so it is really just a giant learning experience for all of them,” said Cloverdale lead pre-kindergarten teacher Susan Perkall.
All classrooms have, at maximum, 18 students at a time and two certified teachers: one lead and one auxiliary. Right now, there are spots for 128 students.
With a larger combined facility, Principal Christy Martin hopes that submitted grant proposals will yield the center two more grant-funded classrooms for this coming year’s students.
“From a principal’s standpoint, exposing more students who will enroll in the system in kindergarten to Pre-K will help reduce the number of learning gaps as they progress through the other grades because we will be able to expose them to this high-quality program,” she said.
Teachers use thematic units to instruct children for six and a half hours per day in accord with Alabama state standards for Pre-K. While they are not using an accredited curriculum, last year, Alabama First Class Pre-K was recognized by the National Institute for Early Education Research for having the highest-quality, state-funded voluntary Pre-K program in the nation.
At the new site, Martin hopes to begin implementing the Creative Curriculum for preschoolers, an accredited coursework in which teachers use strategies for interacting with children in ways that support development and learning related to curricular objectives while encouraging children’s explorations and creativity.
“I think exposing more kids to this environment is going to, down the road, help the students in Dothan City Schools be more successful as they progress through other grades,” Martin said.
Perkall hopes that the new facility will yield broader limits.
“I think now that we’re going to have our own facility, it’ll be more well-known,” she said. “We just really want our students – as many as we can – to get exposed to what school is like and give them an exciting view of what school should be like. We want to create this fun, learning atmosphere that kids are just excited to come to.”
Preschoolers are likely to have a fun atmosphere on a new expansive playground, which will be a combination of the brand new playgrounds built at Cloverdale and Girard Elementary, and any other equipment around Dothan that was paid for with Office of School Readiness (OSR) grants. Because of the OSR guidelines, they will be disassembled, uprooted, and transported to the new facility to remain with the pre-school students.
The center will also feature three IDEA-funded classrooms for special needs preschoolers, which will be separate from the others. Classrooms can serve up to 16 students apiece and are open to students with referrals from pediatricians.
One of those classrooms will have “typical peers,” or typically-developing students.
“They provide balance in the classrooms so that the children have something to work towards – model behavior,” Perkall said.
A bus will be provided for special-needs students, but not for the rest of preschoolers.
Parents can register their children online until March 10 -- a day before the March 11 random drawing for admission at 1 p.m. at Honeysuckle Middle School, at alprek.asapconnected.com. Parents do not have to attend the drawing for their child to be eligible for admission.
Any students not accepted at that time will be put on a waitlist and will be notified as seats become available.
Martin plans to survey parents, upon acceptance, on the need for after-school care, or extended hours.