For parents residing in the Jamestown Public Schools District, giving their children a head start on their education is as simple as signing up for the district's universal prekindergarten program.
The program is offered at each of the district's five elementary schools, as well as three off-site locations, and is available to families within the JPS district. The program also aligns with New York state's Common Core Learning Standards for preschool.
According to Tina Sandstrom, director of elementary education, the program offers a variety of options designed to cater to a myriad of parental needs.
Ring Elementary School UPK teacher Terry Ortiz reads “All About Hibernation,” a nonfiction book about animals who hibernate. This book was read twice, once before the class read a fiction story about a bear’s journey through the four seasons, then again after.
"It's free," said Sandstrom. "'Universal' means that all (district) families have access to it, and there is no cost for the program. We offer a variety (of options) for parents to choose from, so they can decide what fits for their child and schedules. So, it's nice for parents who are working because we give them a lot of options."
According to the JPS website, the options offered by the UPK program include: a full-day, five-hour program; a half-day, two-and-a-half hour program; an integrated setting with special needs students; and center-based programs. For the center-based programs, the district contracts with community agencies that are able to provide wraparound day care services. The teachers provide instruction that is aligned to the state preschool standards, focusing on the whole child to prepare children for school and lifelong learning.
Sandstrom said that parents seeking an off-site community agency may choose whichever program they wish.
"We always try to place our kids in their neighborhood school, but if the parent wants child care, we try to meet the needs of the parent."
JPS director of elementary education
"The bonus of the off-site (program) is wraparound day care service," she said. "We always try to place our kids in their neighborhood school, but if the parent wants child care, we try to meet the needs of the parent. Parents (have to) pay for the child care, but we don't have anything to do with that - we just provide the academics."
Between its eight UPK locations, the district is currently serving 228 students. While the majority of the students are enrolled in the elementary school programs, some do participate in the off-site locations. Sandstrom said that these locations offer 16 to 17 spots, though 16 is the ideal number.
Currently, the district has UPK contracts with Heritage House Childcare Center, A Children's Place Day Care and Chautauqua County Head Start. While Heritage House, which serves two classes of 20 students, and A Children's Place Day Care host their programs in their own buildings, Chautauqua County Head Start is hosted at Bush Elementary School.
"We're very proud of our UPK program," said Sandstrom. "We have a very strong one, and we recognize the importance of it. And the students that attend it do very well when they hit school age."
Jamestown's UPK program is available to children who are 4 years of age on or before Dec. 1. Parents who are interested in enrolling their child in the program can contact Tina Sandstrom by phone at 483-4395, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The district's UPK liaison is Martha Jordan, who can be reached at 483-0924.
For more information on JPS' UPK program, visit www.jamestownpublicschools.org, select the "Parents/Students" tab at the top and select the "UPK Information" link at the bottom right.