The halls and front office of John F. Kennedy Memorial School in Biddeford are shown Wednesday. The school is taking applications for its new pre-Kindergarten program through June 5. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

The halls and front office of John F. Kennedy Memorial School in Biddeford are shown Wednesday. The school is taking applications for its new pre-Kindergarten program through June 5. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — Registration is still open for Biddeford’s youngest students who want to take part in the Biddeford School Department’s pre-Kindergarten program, which will begin in the fall at John F. Kennedy Memorial School.

Registration for pre-Kindergarten, or pre-K, students ends June 5, and a lottery for the 96 available slots will take place on June 7.
 
The Biddeford School Committee unanimously voted on May 10 for parents to send their pre-K, students to classes for 2 1/2 hours each day in the fall, with the option of enrolling them in a morning session running from 9:45 a.m. to noon, or an afternoon session from 1:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
 
At that meeting, committee members lauded the newly-implemented program for its apparent benefits for students, including social, cognitive and motor development.
 
“The kids are learning to take care of themselves, it’s promising the social and mental development, and also cognitive skills … It’s overall preparing them for Kindergarten,” said Lindsey Nadeau, early childhood coordinator at JFK Memorial School, which currently serves only Kindergarten students.
 
Nadeau also said holding pre-K classes in the existing Kindergarten building also helps students accommodate to the space once they move onto the next grade level.
 
“Our pre-K teachers are right in the building with our Kindergarten teachers and are familiar with and know right where to take off with the kiddos,” she said. “There’s just a general comfort for kids that they’ve been in this building before.”
 
The pre-K program will utilize the Opening the World of Learning, or OWL, curriculum, which focuses on developing language and literacy skills in the context of research-based and field-tested content, according to its developer, Pearson Education, Inc.
 
The curriculum, which Nadeau said is approved by the Maine Department of Education, aims to excite children through books, pictures, music and structured playtime.
 
Students will begin their days with a morning socialization circle where their friendships will be allowed to develop. Later on in the day, students will work to develop pre-reading, math and gross and fine motors skills.
 
Students coming in the morning will be fed lunch, and those attending in the afternoon will receive snacks, said Nadeau.
 
School officials have stressed there is a need for a pre-K program based on the district’s initial kindergarten performance, which is less than ideal.
 
Nadeau said only 54 percent of incoming kindergarten students in Biddeford are coming in prepared for kindergarten, compared with national numbers. During a second evaluation held in January, about 70 percent of students were above national statistics.
 
“We’re excited to see where they might be with pre-Kindergarten,” Nadeau said.
 
School Superintendent Jeremy Ray added that 47 students out of the 185 kindergartners in the district knew five or fewer letters of the alphabet upon entering school this year.
 
“That’s more than a quarter of our students coming to us at the Kindergarten level who aren’t ready,” he said at the May 10 School Committee meeting.
 
Nadeau said Wednesday that, with an additional year of schooling under their belts — focusing on social, cognitive, self-help and gross motor skill development — Kindergarten performance indicators would be above where it is currently.
 
Pre-registration application ends June 5. For more information, call 282-4134 or check out the information packet online at biddefordschooldepartment.org.

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]


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