Pilot pre-k program a success in Johnsburg

JOHNSBURG - When 1:30 p.m. rolls around at Johnsburg Central School (JCS), Darlene Urbonowicz's pre-kindergarten students often don't want to go home, she said. Especially last Thursday - sledding day.

JCS's pre-kindergarten program is in its first year at JCS and was started after the Cheerful Crickets pre-school program at Tannery Pond Community Center ended last year.

The program at JCS enrolls 15 students and hired Urbonowicz as the full-time teacher this year. She brings 31 years of teaching experience to the new classroom, including 18 at JCS and 10 at the kindergarten level.

The students begin their day at 9 a.m. and move through academic classes, lunch, art, music, library and gym all in their own classroom.

Those close to the program feel that it has done nothing but add to the positive education environment at JCS.

"The students are better prepared to move forward," said Urbonowicz.

She acknowledged how academics are becoming increasingly difficult at the younger levels.

"The core curriculum in kindergarten classes is changing and academics are becoming harder. Students are now reading and writing in kindergarten," said Urbonowicz. "Pre-kindergarten provides them with a good foundation to succeed."

She hopes that parents become as involved in the early learning as possible and welcomes them to join the classroom at any time.

"I have seen first-hand the great opportunity this has created for the children of this community," said Jeremy Williams of JCS's Parent Teacher Student Association.

His daughter Caroline was a student at Cheerful Crickets and now attends the pre-kindergarten program at JCS.

The JCS program eases the stress of the transition between pre-kindergarten and kindergarten by welcoming students everyday as well as following the existing JCS programs, according to Urbonowicz.

"I hope it's here to stay," she said.

JCS superintendent Mike Markwica is encouraged by the success the program has had in its first year.

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