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Gearing Up for Kindergarten will continue...

Despite the state of North Dakota slashing funding for a pre-kindergarten program called Gearing Up for Kindergarten, the program will continue, according to director Kara Keysor.

1/30/18 (Tue)

Despite the state of North Dakota slashing funding for a pre-kindergarten program called Gearing Up for Kindergarten, the program will continue, according to director Kara Keysor.

Originally developed by North Dakota State University Extension, Keysor said the program will go into its fifth year in Kenmare, thanks to a grant from Vets Gaming.

She declined to say what the grant amounted to but added it will take care of the budget for an eight-week program.

“It’s nice they gave us the opportunity,” Keysor said. “Gearing Up for Kindergarten has been a 10-week program, but this year it will be eight weeks thanks to Vets Gaming funding.”

Keysor, who teaches kindergarten, said she sees improvements in children who have attended the pre-kindergarten program.

“For kids coming in, they will see what the place is like,” she said. “It’s a great program and has huge advantages. It’s just so beneficial and I’m saying that as a parent and a teacher.”

Gearing Up for Kindergarten will start immediately after the Kenmare Public School’s spring break in March.

The program will run eight weeks each Thursday, beginning at 6 p.m., and ending at 7:30.

In a quick summary of how the program works, Keysor said the children sign in and the first half hour is a parent/child activity center. Stations are set up so the children may interact with each other and parents are encouraged to participate.

Following that, they have circle time, as Keysor called it, in which she reads stories to the children or they take part in conversation.

After that, the children and parents split up. Keysor takes the children and Peggy Balvitsch, a second-grade teacher who is part of the program, takes the parents.

Balvitsch talks about parenting advice, brain development, reading, learning style, discipline and the importance of sleep.

“For me, it’s more like kindergarten-based learning,” Keysor said. “And when it gets nicer, we’ll go to the playground or tour the school, or something like it.”

The children are normally 4 and 5 years old. Many of them attend pre-school but not all. Keysor called it a “great ice breaker,” for all the children.

She said some modifications have been made in downsizing to the eight-week program from the original 10 weeks.

When it was funded by the state, the program was more formal, according to Keysor.

She said attendance had to be verified and assessments were done.

Scaling back to eight weeks allowed Keysor and Balvitsch to push the program back to late March, which she says, is beneficial to everyone because additional time may be focused on the program. Prior to spring break, both teachers have a lot of irons in the fire.

She encourages anyone who is interested to call the elementary school at 385-4688 or drop by. A sign-up sheet will be available in the office.

The program is free of charge to anyone who attends.

“We do have child care for younger siblings,” Keysor said. “We just ask that you let us know in advance. Some people can’t come because of younger siblings. This gives the parent time with that child in the program.”

Fliers will be sent out to the parents when it gets closer to starting the program. Keysor said she’s had as many as 18 and 20, but the average number of children is about 15.

“It’s not mandatory and the children will still go to kindergarten,” she said. “It’s a great experience and I feel privileged to run the program.”

Keysor said Balvitsch’s relationship with parents is different than hers could be, simply because Keysor is directly involved, or will be directly involved with the children and Balvitsch may not be for a couple of years.

Keysor said Balvitsch does a great job with her portion of the program.

“We build relationships with the kids and that’s important,” she said. “I get positive feedback from parents all the time and that’s why I’m an advocate. Parents see the value in it.” ... 

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