St. Gregory School enhances 3-step Early Childhood Program

L to r: Amy Kloss, Kathy Kuchta and Val Crofoot

Almost four years ago, St. Gregory Parish School added Pre-Kindergarten to its already successful early childhood program. Today, they are adding still more to allow greater growth. In response to the needs of many school families, SGPS has decided to offer before and after school care in 2011/2012. They will also be adding a 3-day Pre-K option to the current 5-day program.

This further expands the wide range of options already offered at St. Gregory’s and allows even greater flexibility for families. While many institutions are cutting back on early childhood options, St. Gregory’s is determined only to enhance its program.

“Ours is a rich, 3-step process of development,” says Nancy Pierce, Principal of St. Gregory’s. “Like building blocks, each program builds upon the other.”

Preschool, for example, is the introduction to early literacy skills − introducing letters and sounds, numbers and counting, as well as the building of self esteem and self control. “Everything is standards-based,” notes Preschool teacher, Val Crofoot (referencing the school’s adherence to the PA state standards). “But we are also skill-based we incorporate socialization, motor skills, logic, discovery, creative expression, curiosity development, and spiritual development into daily activities.”

The preschool program at St. Gregory’s is offered 2-5 days a week for all 3-4 year olds. It also includes the opportunity for field trips to places such as the Erie Playhouse, the Warner Theatre, and other local businesses. “This engages students in fun, exploratory activities that are cross-curricular,” Val adds.

In addition, SGPS offers Pre-K for 4-5 year olds 3-5 days per week. Pre-K is considered the school’s “Kindergarten Readiness Program”, picking up where preschool leaves off. And it, too, follows the PA state standards (for pre-kindergarten).

For example, Pre-K students move beyond introductory math skills of counting and number recognition into higher order problem solving, patterning and addition and subtraction with manipulatives. Pre-Kindergarten also works reading readiness skills — they do more decoding and putting sounds together and they are introduced to basic sight words and the guided reading process.

“We even send home reading books for students,” explained Kathy Kuchta, Pre-K teacher at St. Gregory’s. “And students have Music, Art, Spanish, Science, and Library class just like grades K-8.“

Socially, Pre-K students do a lot of interacting with the Kindergarten class — they take field trips together; they are paired with kindergarten for various school-wide programs; they have a Mother’s day and Father’s Day celebration in the Spring, and every other year the classes do a Christmas and/or spring musical together.

“All of this combined prepares students for their entrance into Kindergarten,” added Kuchta.

Amy Kloss, Kindergarten teacher at St. Gregory’s can attest to that.

“It makes a huge difference,” she said. “This year’s entire Kindergarten class experienced Pre-K last year. Because of that, I don’t have to stick with the basic Kindergarten curriculum - We can move above and beyond the current standards because students are already prepared and ready.” For example, this year, the entire Kindergarten class at St. Gregory’s is working on First Grade math. 

In Reading, Kindergarten focuses on Balanced Literacy — which is a strong focus on not just reading but also writing. Students do guided reading, formal and structural writing and creative writing, practicing sentences, journal entries, and friendly letters.

Additionally, Kindergarten takes part in various school-wide activities which foster a sense of belonging and confidence. For example Kindergarten students  attend 4 school wide field trips,  are part of student council;  participate in Liturgy, Stations of the Cross, service projects, daytime clubs, as well as sports (like biddy soccer and biddy basketball).

Saint Gregory School is promoting the concept of “ Open House”  The school is always open Monday-Friday from 8:30-3:30 for a tour of the building and to visit the preschool, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classroom.

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