St. John universal pre-K fulfills 2008 promise

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 23, 2011

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – Children in St. John the Baptist parish no longer need to be accepted to the HeadStart program to get a head start on learning.

This school year, the district began offering Universal Pre-K for students turning 4 before Sept. 30.

The plan to offer the program was put in place in 2008 when district administration and the school board in collaboration with teachers and other community members drafted the Master Plan to update and strengthen academics and educational facilities in the parish.

When parents dropped their youngsters off for their first day Aug. 11, many of them were enthusiastic about the new offering.

“I think it’s a great advantage,” said Sheila Coxie, grandmother of Lake Pontchartrain Elementary pre-K student Sanaya Coxie. “I think it gives them a great jump start. It gives them structure.”

Starr Couste, mother of student Brennan Couste, said “I’m excited he gets to come to school early. That way he’s ready, so when he does go to kindergarten, he’ll be ahead of the class.”

So far, about 350 students have registered for the program. Applications can be picked up at any district elementary school or at the central office in Reserve.

The children will be taught according to the Scott Foresman Pre-K curriculum, which supports standards in literacy and touches on science, mathematics, social studies, art and music. It utilizes children’s books, flip charts, picture cards, songs and vocabulary cards.

“One of our goals is to provide our students with a seamless transition to kindergarten and early elementary,” said Superintendent Courtney Millet. “In pre-kindergarten, our students are exposed to numbers, letters and shapes, and more importantly they learn how to get along with other children, to share and to contribute. Statistics show that a majority of students who attend prekindergarten enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies and stronger basic math skills than those who do not.”

The program is being funded through a combination of general funds money and federal dollars. The total cost for the program’s inaugural year comes to about $2.5 million.