ELKHART — Getting kids ready to start school has to be a group effort.
That’s the message that several local groups, including Elkhart Community Schools and the Horizon Education Alliance, are sending as they look for a solution to what they say is a longtime problem — some kids aren’t ready for kindergarten.
Some of these 5- and 6-year-olds don’t have the basic skills to be in school all day, said Elkhart Schools early childhood coordinator Kim Boynton on Friday, Oct. 25. These skills include something called self-regulation — being able to sit still, listen and participate in classroom activities. Other skills a kindergartner needs could be as simple as being able to take off his coat or open packages of food at lunchtime.
“Kids come into kindergarten with so much variance of what they know,” Anthony England, director of student services for Elkhart Schools, said on Friday.
Boynton added, “We are really starting to look at, if we could get these skills in place before kindergarten, what could (students) do when they get to kindergarten?”
Brian Wiebe, director of the Horizon Education Alliance, said Friday that Horizon and other local groups interested in education are doing intense research and thinking about what could be done to help Elkhart County children be more ready to start school.
“The local determination to work on this has grown,” Wiebe said. “The business community is realizing that if we don’t do these things at a foundational level, it’s always going to be difficult to have a workforce ... with the 21st century skills. Business owners and economists are recognizing the return-on-investment of giving kids great support.”
He continued, “We are trying to pull folks together ... to decide, what do we mean by kindergarten readiness? There are many factors of readiness, but high-quality preschool is one of those pieces. Indiana doesn’t get state funding for preschool, and it is one of only 10 states that doesn’t.”
Wiebe added that discussions happening between educators and community leaders over the next few months will determine what offerings may be available to Elkhart County children a year from now.
Ready for kindergarten
Here are some things generally expected of children entering kindergarten, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Children should do as much for themselves as possible, such as taking care of personal belongings, going to the toilet, washing their hands, and taking care of and putting away materials.
Children should be able to recognize and name alphabet letters.
Children should be able to produce circles, lines, scribbles and letters as part of their early writing.
Children should know how to hold and look at a book and should be beginning to learn to read.
Children should respect the property of others, share and take turns.