Schoolcraft eyes hosting KRESA ‘Early On’ program

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft school district is looking into adding Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency’s “Early On” education program to the district. Elementary Principal Matt Webster gave a presentation on the service to the school board at its April meeting.

It’s intended as an early intervention system that helps with learning and development in children up to three years old. Early childhood teacher consultants, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech-language pathologists are on hand to coach parents in ways to support growth and school readiness through the children’s daily routines. As an example of the work they do, Webster said, a speech pathologist might teach games to parents that will help them grow the child’s vocabulary without the child even realizing it.

Webster said after diving into the data on incoming kindergarten students, he saw areas needing improvement that the Early On program could help with.

“That in my opinion is where this Early On opportunity comes in because we see young fives, kindergarten students, coming into the district who have this social, emotional, academic need, and until they come to us, that need hasn’t necessarily been addressed,” Webster said.

Partnering with the program would costs the district nothing. It would need only to provide space for sessions twice a week, lasting approximately an hour each. The benefit is not just in early child development; Webster sees it as an opportunity to connect with families earlier and possibly keep more in the district.

“If we can get to know this family early, there’s an earlier opportunity to intervene, an earlier opportunity to start providing some supports. I’m pretty excited about this,” Webster said.

If the district decides to support the program, it would be the southernmost participant in the county, providing a more convenient location for families from Schoolcraft, Vicksburg and Portage who currently must travel to West Main in Kalamazoo.

Webster noted that KRESA is also offering to help write up some grants to get some appropriate toys and equipment for the program.

Board President Jennifer Gottschalk and Treasurer Wade Rutkoskie both expressed support for the idea. Gottschalk encouraged Webster to look at the next steps in adopting the idea and come back to the board with more information when needed.

“I think it’s a good opportunity,” Gottschalk said. “I like that it is another chance to get younger kids in our school district because once again, bring them in young, they’re going to stay, and they’re going to go through our school district.”

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