Preschool has become an essential introduction to student-starved District 91 public elementary schools in Forest Park. The program is rightly admired and valued by local parents.

And while not all of those preschool kids continue with the district, a good number do, and it is a pipeline this district needs to continue to nurture.

Over the past month worries have surfaced that the district was looking to reduce the number of classroom aides and to eliminate some aspects of its art, music, gym and enrichment programs.

In a story this week, Igor Studenkov reports on the concerns of the teachers union that wants more clarity on these twin issues. He also presents the district’s response which is that it worries if current aides do not return it will be unable to hire enough aides in what is a tough employment market for schools. That’s a legitimate worry and hiring efforts need to be expanded.

The district also said the possible reduction in the preschools’ dedicated enrichment period is focused on giving young students more time to socialize after two years of pandemic isolation. The most critical benefit of preschool is socialization for our youngest residents. 

We’ll continue to follow as the district hopefully improves its communication on any changes to its well regarded preschool program. 

Grassroots music

Stoop Sessions, the simple and inspired neighborhood music series, is back. Launched in 2019, COVID-cancelled in 2020, diminished but alive in 2021, the front porch/front lawn venues are reopening next week.

The work of the Forest Park Arts Alliance, this year’s series will feature five sessions, starting June 14 and running through Aug. 23. Some acts are repeating. Some are new. Performers range in age (12 to 70) and genre — jazz standards to fusion to singer-songwriter. 

We say this often because it’s true. Forest Park is a hive of artistic talents. And why not? Close to the city. Affordable. Filled with nooks and crannies to make art. It has taken the Arts Alliance to tease all this art energy out, to build welcoming venues from front porches to garages in the alley, to nurture both artists and an audience that appreciates and celebrates this art. 

Our story today, by Tom Holmes, quotes Rick Wagner, an Arts Alliance member and a local homeowner, making the case for hyper-local art. “I believe in supporting all arts in Forest Park. Having strong support for all the arts makes a community more vibrant. Art lifts the spirit through music, word, theater or visual presentation. Forest Park has so many talented individuals and it’s very important that we showcase their work.”

Stoop Sessions is a community-building, arts-loving, modestly artist-supporting endeavor that says so many good things about Forest Park. Bring your lawn chairs. Meet your neighbors. Enjoy the music.