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Pre-k programs gain popularity
There are many popular sayings that compare something new beating out something old -- pink is the new black, 30 is the new 40 -- and so on. The latest phrase going around Glynn County is, "Prekindergarten is the new kindergarten."

The state of Georgia has been a frontrunner in early education with its lottery-funded prekindergarten program, having been operating for 25 years. Locally, the trend has continued to rise to the point that more often than not, there isn't enough classroom space to meet demand.

Jim Weidhaas, schools spokesman, says that for some time now, many children have left on a waiting list once the school year began. Currently, the local school system offers pre-k at six of 10 elementary schools: Satilla Marsh, Glyndale, C.B. Greer, Oglethorpe Point, St. Simons and Sterling, plus the Leaps and Bound and FACES programs associated with Burroughs-Molette Elementary.

Despite the number of locations, some children are still turned away. Marti Bland, a pre-k teacher at Satilla Marsh, understands why so many parents are hoping to enroll their children.

"I think it gets them ready for kindergarten, it gets them ready for the structure of a full school day. To me, pre-k is what kindergarten used to be," Bland said. "It gives them the time to be at school, to learn the routines, go to lunch, to learn what they need to do. It sets them up for the rest of their school years."

Having sent her own child through the local pre-k program, Bland knows both sides of the program, as a parent and as a teacher. And she couldn't appreciate it more.

"Lottery funded pre-k is very important for the state of Georgia. It's a much needed program, especially for the kids who can't afford to go anywhere else," she said.

For parents who have a child on a waiting list, Bland says there are private programs available, often through churches. However, she doesn't see many publicly funded programs that match the caliber of the one in the Glynn County School System.

Also available to children whose families meet income guidelines, are Glynn County Headstart and Glynn County Early Headstart.

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at slundgren@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322.



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