Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A New Era Begins

I hope that everyone enjoyed the long Labor Day weekend. I think the three day break provides a nice respite for our students as they have started to return to the routine of school. I know many parents were headed out of town, perhaps to experience one final camping trip in the twilight of summer? Nevertheless, school is now in full swing and we have completed two weeks of instruction! The nervousness that comes with the start of the school year is waning and we are settling into the familiar pace of school. 

Yet for one group, the school year is just beginning. Yesterday began a new journey for the Hudson Community School District with the launch of our preschool program. Our statewide voluntary preschool program is designed to serve students who are four years old; and those who have specialized educational needs. We are so excited to be bringing this program to our district!

This day has been a long time coming. Over the last several years we have mused internally about starting preschool, while at the same time recognizing and uncovering barriers that existed in addition to the financial challenges this endeavor would bring. We would wrestle with the problem, considering multiple scenarios and configurations before ultimately shelving the project. "Maybe next year", we would decide. Meanwhile, students requiring services were staffed to neighboring districts where programs existed that could meet their needs. 'Tuitioning Out' these students was not something that we really wanted to do, but it was the option we were left with at the time. 

The urgency with which we approached the 'preschool problem' began to change one year ago with you, our constituent. Our stakeholder. Our parent. As many of you pointed out, Hudson is a growing community. A community of young families with small children. We have an apartment complex under construction on the North end of town. The subdivision where I live has multiple homes under construction. And the city council is making plans to open a new residential development at the intersection of Ranchero Road and Butterfield. Our strategy to shelf the idea of starting a voluntary statewide preschool program 'for one more year' no longer seemed a viable option. Preschool soon became a front burner issue that our community was eager to see implemented.

So then, a year of planning began. As many of you know, our hurdles were significant. But perseverance ruled the day. With the assistance of countless people, ranging from consultants at Central Rivers AEA, to even consultants with the Department of Education, we continued our journey. We even got the legislature involved when a financial hurdle seemed destined to stop us in our tracks. Then on April 3rd, we got the approval that we had worked so hard for. It was all systems go!

But alas, that was when the real work began! It was when we had to prepare a classroom, secure staffing, purchase curriculum. Develop procedures and publish a handbook. Consider transportation. Procure supplies. (As I understand it the kitchen set still isn't here.) All moving in the ever quickening pace of the first day of school. Luckily we have a great team in place. Again, we have to really give a nod to Central Rivers AEA for their assistance. Our preschool teacher, Miss Cartney, has done a fantastic job of preparing for the eventuality of this day. Her close work with Mr. Schlatter ensured everything was ready to go when yesterday finally arrived. 

Our plan always was to start immediately following Labor Day. So as school started for the remainder of the student body two short weeks ago, our preschool staff was busily putting the finishing touches on the classroom and completing home visits. The day has finally arrived!

I said it once before, but I'll say it again: Now the real work begins!


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