PERU — New prekindergarten classes for 4-year-olds in two of the Western Foothills district elementary schools begin in late September.

This will be the first time such a program has been offered in the River Valley area.

“Research shows that age 0-5 years is critical to enabling children to learn,” said Kathy Richard, principal of Dirigo Elementary School, which is one of the sites of the new RSU 10 program.
She devoted many hours visiting six prekindergarten programs established around the state to prepare for setting up the local program.

Two schools in the district, Dirigo Elementary School in Peru and Meroby Elementary School in Mexico, will host the new program. Four-year-olds who attend the Meroby program will also be drawn from Rumford.

Parents who want their children to attend the new program must fill out an application, then return it to Melissa Chasse, principal of Meroby, at 364-3714, Richard at Dirigo at 562-4207, or Ann Chamberlin, principal of Rumford Elementary School, at 364-8155. Applications must be filed as soon as possible so parents of children chosen may be notified by early August.

Richard said letters announcing the new program will be sent home to parents of all elementary children in the three schools by the end of the week. In the letter, these parents are asked to pass along a flier describing the program to other parents who may have a 4-year-old.

Thirty youngsters will be admitted at each of the two sites, with no class larger than 15 children. Each child will attend two full days on either Mondays and Thursdays, or Tuesdays and Fridays, beginning a couple of weeks after regular elementary classes begin and ending a couple of weeks before regular classes end.

The district is in the process of hiring two early childhood education teachers, and four educational technicians.

Because the program is a partnership with Head Start, two of the educational technicians will be assigned to conduct home visits throughout the school year to provide family support as well as to help out in the classroom.

“This is a community effort in educating children,” Richard said.

Prekindergarten classes are important because they help youngsters prepare for kindergarten.

“This program will improve readiness skills in reading, math and social skills,” she said.

Youngsters will also receive breakfast and lunch each day, health and physical education and creative arts. Parents will have a chance to become involved in the program, too.

Prekindergarten pupils will be transported to the schools along with other elementary children.

A prekindergarten program already exists in Buckfield, which is part of the new regio

“We’re seeing more and more children lacking social skills and not ready for kindergarten,” she said.

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Soon these cubbies will be filled with brightly colored boots and coats, and the chairs occupied by 4-year-olds at Dirigo Elementary School. A new Pre-K program for 4-year-olds begins in the fall, said Principal Kathy Richard.

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