Next year, starting at age 3, Forest Park kids can attend no-tuition, half-day preschool at Garfield School, the park district and possibly the Forest Park Public Library after District 91 approved the plan during the Feb. 14 school board meeting.
The program is the result of research by Garfield Principal Jamie Stauder and early childhood special education teacher Jane Calazone.
The five-day-a-week program will consist of six half-day classrooms, morning and afternoon, with 10-15 students each and “room to grow.” The district currently offers special education preschool for children beginning at age 3 and junior kindergarten for 4-year-olds.
The new program will be held at Garfield School, 543 Hannah Ave., four days per week and the Park District of Forest Park, 7501 Harrison St., on Fridays. Staff at the library have also inquired about collaborating on the program, Stauder said.
According to Calazone and Stauder, the program is for all preschoolers. The classes will provide an “inclusive environment,” with services such as occupational and speech therapy and a social worker available for students with special needs in each class.
Stauder and Calazone chose the “Creative Curriculum,” endorsed by the Illinois State Board of Education, saying in January that, “this curriculum honors the creativity of students and teachers.”
In January, Stauder told the school board that the program would use existing staff by “moving them around” and staff costs for teachers’ aides would come to $89,200 per year, with one-time costs of $34,880 for curriculum materials, preschool furniture and technology for teacher tablets and whiteboards.
Informational meetings for parents will be held at Garfield School on Thursday, Feb. 28 from 6 to 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday, March 6 from 9 to 9:30 a.m. Interested parents can call 708-366-6945.