Kindergarten Isn’t What It Used to Be

Children enrolled in the Schoolcraft summer team Eagle Zone represent the last students to study in the early elementary school building.

By Sue Moore

In “olden times”, there was just kindergarten. Now there are all sorts of names and programs for three-, four- and five-year-olds, the little ones beginning their travels through the educational system.

In Schoolcraft and Vicksburg, children going into the four- and five-year-old classrooms have names such as Wrap Around, Eagle Zone, Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), Pre-K, Young 5’s, Kalamazoo Ready 4’s – just for starters. Then there is Head Start for three-year-olds which is run by Kalamazoo Regional Education Services Agency (KRESA).

How is a parent or grandparent to sort all of this out and know what is best for their child? In Schoolcraft it’s Early Childhood Coordinator Amie Goldschmeding who has all of the answers. In Vicksburg it’s Tonya Nash, head of the community education department.

Goldschmeding started with the school system seven years ago when Schoolcraft had one program called Wrap Around, a half day for kindergarteners. Today she administers the Eagle Zone, a program for children before and after the regular classroom, the GSRP for four-year-olds and Pre-K, instituted four years ago.

The state of Michigan began a push for early childhood education for four year olds, believing that this would lead to a better learning situation for all families, especially those with economic difficulties. The State also pushed for full-day kindergarten for similar reasons and it has put money behind each program during the Snyder administration.

As the doors are flung open in Schoolcraft to begin the 2016-17 school year, a big change will be in order for all of Goldschmeding’s charges. They will be moving en masse from the early elementary building at the corner of Cass and Cedar Streets to the elementary building on E. Clay Street. To accommodate the four- and five-year-olds, the school board voted to spend $563,000 on renovation for the entire building including classrooms, bathrooms and the middle school. There will be three classrooms for full-day kindergarten and two classrooms modified for four-year-olds participating in the GSRP and Pre-K programs.

Goldschmeding has participated in all of the planning for the move and feels that her charges will be greeted warmly. She appreciates the chance for closer collaboration with the elementary teachers and Matt Webster, the school’s principal. To free up space, the fifth graders housed in the elementary will move to the middle school under the leadership of Principal Dave Powell. Some work has been done over the summer to accommodate the four sections of fifth graders where there were already some empty classroom spaces.

September 19 is the start date for Pre-K students and Sept. 6 for the Eagle Zone in the elementary building. The move has required a whole new set of inspections and paperwork by the State for Goldschmeding who came to Schoolcraft in fourth grade in the very building she is leaving. She has a son in fifth grade who will be experiencing the new surroundings and twin daughters in eighth grade. She has been coaching junior varsity volleyball for the last 16 years in Schoolcraft.

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