Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Exploring Preschool

This year, 322 of 333 school districts in Iowa participate in the statewide voluntary preschool program. What began as a grant initiative in 2007 has now expanded to include the vast majority of schools in the state. The purpose of the statewide voluntary preschool program is to ensure that all 4 year old children in Iowa are ready to start kindergarten by providing access to high quality, research based preschool curriculum. While the Hudson Community School District was (and is) committed to ensuring our youngest citizens enter school ready to learn, we have felt that this was best served through our community providers. Indeed, our community providers have done an outstanding job of preparing our youngest students for kindergarten. Because our community providers have done such an outstanding job, the idea of implementing the statewide voluntary preschool program has been previously discussed in the district, but not with much vigor.

Now, almost a decade later, those discussions are beginning to occur with greater frequency and intensity. Not because there has been any erosion of service from our community partners; quite the contrary! They do, and hopefully will continue to serve a vital role in the education of our youth! The difference now is that our needs as a school district are changing.

For starters, we are now serving a greater number of children with special needs prior to kindergarten. Unfortunately, because we don't offer the statewide voluntary preschool, those students have to be served elsewhere. This is because preschool students with an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) are required to be served by a licensed teacher. We now have multiple students with special needs who are being transported to another school district each day for preschool. A preschool program in Hudson would eliminate that need. Our intention would be to employ someone with an early childhood and special education endorsement for this program.

Additionally it appears the wishes of our community are beginning to shift. When new families move to the area and ask about our programming, they are often very surprised to hear that we don't provide the statewide voluntary preschool. Have families opted to move elsewhere because of this? I'm not sure I could make that claim yet, but a school district that operates a comprehensive PK-12 program might be more appealing than one operating a comprehensive K-12 program.

Finally, our window of opportunity may be beginning to close. In 2007, what began with a $15 Million grant serving 5,126 students has grown to an annual allocation of $73 Million serving almost 23,141 students. Again, 322/333 or 97% of school districts in Iowa offer statewide voluntary preschool programs.

So our planning begins. Indeed we have our work cut out for us! At this point we have more questions about the process than answers. I am sure you do as well, and I encourage you to share them with us right here. Rest assured, we remain committed to working with our community partners ensuring all our children are prepared for success in school. 


  1. Is this going to be a program for 4 AND 5 year olds? I know many districts have a preschool and pre-k program.

    1. Thank you for your comment and question. The short answer is that we don't honestly know how our program will be configured. Would that be something that you would advocate for? Would love to visit more about this with you, please give me a call!