IPS to offer full-day preschool starting in 2013

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Indianapolis Public Schools, which has struggled to improve student test scores and graduation rates, is opening preschools for four-year-olds starting in the fall of 2013.

IPS figures the earlier they get children in school, the fewer academic struggles and problems they will have years later.

This fall, IPS will offer free, full-day preschool to 1,400 four-year-olds. The superintendent says this isn't day care. There will be no nap time.

There will be a comprehensive curriculum that includes learning letters, numbers, colors, and other skills children need to succeed in kindergarten.

Eliminating the so-called preparation gap means students don't start out behind and spend years catching up.

"We are going to eliminate a lot of problems. We have getting kids ready to read at the third grade. We are going to reduce the number of kids going into special education. And we are going to make school more enjoyable for many kids. I think it's going to have a profound effect on academic performances of the school district," said Dr. Eugene White, IPS superintendent.

The school district says it's seeing impressive and long-term results from instituting full-day kindergarten six years ago. It's expecting similar results from preschool.

Public preschools are rare in Indiana. The Department of Education is aware of only about two-dozen school systems offering pre kindergarten classes. Many are for special education or charge parents a fee.

Lawrence Township's preschool program began eight years ago. Parents pay as much as $125 a week to enroll their children.

Dr. Denna Renbarger is an assistant superintendent and an early learning advocate. "They learn a ton. They really do," she said.

Learning colors, numbers and words are important, as well as skills like sharing, listening, and sitting still.

Kids arriving in kindergarten without those lessons, Renbarger says, "They might spend the first six weeks running around the room and misbehaving and calls home and getting in trouble. Kids who have been in preschool are sitting down, hands folded and they are learning to read already."

The first opportunity to enroll IPS students in the preschool program will be January 19 and January 23 when the district hosts its Preschool Information and Application Fair in the cafeteria at Arsenal Technical High School, 1500 East Michigan Street. The fair will be open from 9 a.m. to noon on January 19 and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on January 23.

Parents and guardians coming to one of the information and application fairs are asked to bring the following items with them if they wish to complete on-site registration:

•Government issued photo identification
•Proof of residency (must live within IPS district)
•Child's birth certificate
•Child's most recent immunization record

Those who have questions regarding the IPS preschool program can call (317) 226-3912.

Learn more here.