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Williams Elementary preschool to undergo changes in 2018-2019

Paisley Orozco, Veronica Martinez, Brooklynn Admire and Treston Orozco play with Legos during one of their last days of preschool at Williams Elementary-Middle School May 16. (Wendy Howell,WGCN)

Paisley Orozco, Veronica Martinez, Brooklynn Admire and Treston Orozco play with Legos during one of their last days of preschool at Williams Elementary-Middle School May 16. (Wendy Howell,WGCN)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — The prekindergarten program at Williams Elementary-Middle School (WEMS) is finishing up their inaugural year at the school and making adjustments for 2018-2019.

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Preschool students at Williams Elementary-Middle School interact with one another during a class. This was the first year WEMS has offered a preschool option. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

The program is funded by an Arizona Department of Education Preschool Development Grant for the 2017-18 school year, and the school was recently approved for an additional grant.

According to Student Services Director Maya Caldwell, the prekindergarten program will have some changes next year.

This year there was one prekindergarten class of 20 students and another special needs class of 14 students.

Next year the students will be combined and distributed into two regular prekindergarten classes with room for additional students.

“This is giving us an opportunity to expand the program and take the special needs kids and blend them among two classrooms,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell said the move benefits students in two ways: providing an inclusion program for all the students and providing additional spots for more students.

“Going to training and learning more about preschool education, we have learned about the benefits of inclusion, which is having special needs kids blended with their typically developing peers in the classroom,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell said it makes sense to move the preschool program in that direction since that is how the other grades at school are modeled.

“Research shows that students with special needs learn best when they are with their typically developing peers,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell said she is also excited to offer more spots to incoming preschoolers. She said last year the program was at capacity and she carried a waitlist throughout the year.

She anticipates an additional 10 spots available this year.

Although there are income and age requirements, Caldwell recommends anyone with preschool age children to submit an application for the program.

“We started a new curriculum that is very discovery learning based,” she said. “It’s a lot of hands on learning and interactive fun play experiences for kids.”

Caldwell said although the current preschool program is funded through the grant, she is continuing to look for sustainable funding sources to continue the program.

“The district is required to have services for special needs kids starting from the age of three,” she said. “But the regular preschool is grant funded by the state with no district funds.”

Caldwell said the WEMS program is working Head Start to ensure as many preschool age children is Williams can experience a learning environment.

“We are working with Head Start and our speech pathologist will go to there to make sure they get what they need as well,” she said.

Caldwell said another benefit to the blended programs is an expansion to a full-day program for the special needs children.

“The funding will help make their day longer and they will have an extra day as well,” she said.

Caldwell encourages parents to come to the school if they have questions about the program. She can be reached at Williams Elementary-Middle School at 601 N 7th Street or (928) 635-4672.

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