Walking through the halls at Options High School, you might hear some new and unexpected sounds. Some laughter, some tears and little voices, as they practice walking in a line on their way to gym time, both hands holding tight to a blue rope.
New this year, Options High School has a preschool as an extension of GRADS. The GRADS program supports pregnant and parenting students by providing academic and childcare support necessary to stay in high school and graduate. The preschool currently has six students enrolled, and they are a mix of children of staff members and of students. Staff pay tuition to have their children in the program, but the preschool is free for students. Previously, babies of students in the GRADS program would age out at 2.5 years old. Now, this preschool accepts kids 2.5 to 5 years-old, eliminating a childcare gap and helping to reduce barriers for students so they can focus on attending school and graduating.
Elizabeth Macpherson (also known as Miss EB) is the GRADS childcare lead working daily in the preschool.
“Now, because we have this higher age group classroom available, none of our current student’s kids will age out of the program before graduation,” Miss EB said. “This also allows us to offer consistency for the children as they grow into higher-level classrooms with teachers they have known and bonded with.”
A typical day in the class consists of free play. Kids are encouraged to explore the classroom and its materials in a variety of ways. The classroom has centers, or interest areas, which include blocks, dramatic play, music, science, manipulatives, art and sensory play. Each day, kids spend at least an hour outside and/or in the gym.
“We eat snacks and meals together, practice self-help skills, and of course take a nap,” Miss EB said. “My personal favorite time of the day is story time, where the kids may choose to sit and listen to a story or two.”
Miss EB said there have been many memorable moments of the first month of preschool, but one moment in particular stands out to her. Earlier this year assistant superintendent Steve Clarke stopped by to see the class and meet the kids. Miss EB shook his hand and introduced herself. Following her lead, one of the 2.5 year-olds walked up to Mr. Clarke, with an air of confidence, extended her hand and introduced herself with perfect etiquette.
“It was so mature and adorable at the same time,” Miss EB said.
Next year the program will expand to welcome 10 kids in the classroom.