Plum preschool programs get a boost with grant

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Susan Griffin's eldest daughter was prepared for kindergarten after attending a preschool program at Plum High School.

So Griffin, 41, of Plum was concerned when the Plum School Board voted to eliminate the program as part of cuts in the 2013-14 budget, because her youngest daughter was preschool bound.

The Griffins enrolled Emma, 4, in the Holiday Park United Methodist Preschool and are pleased that she is thriving.

Promoting kindergarten readiness in the school district recently got a boost from an $800 United Way of Allegheny County Hi 5! Kindergarten Here I Come Grant, Assistant Superintendent Guy Rossi said last week.

The purpose of the grant is to help Allegheny County children start school ready to learn and to improve the transition to kindergarten by establishing local teams which include parents, school districts and pre-kindergarten representatives, according to the United Way website.

Each participating school district receives an $800 grant to support its plans.

“We are going to make a greater connection with the preschools (from which the district draws kindergarten students),” Rossi said.

The grant money will be used to promote kindergarten registration and ensure the preschool and kindergarten curricula are aligned.

The number of kindergarten students increased from the previous school year to the current one in Plum, Rossi said.

The district has 309 children enrolled in kindergarten, compared to roughly 275 kindergarten students in the 2012-13 school year.

“We are trying to be more proactive with the registration process to encourage families to enroll as soon as possible,” Rossi said. “Having accurate numbers in the spring helps us plan appropriately for the fall.”

Kindergarten registration will be conducted March 4 to 6 at each of the elementary buildings.

Griffin said Emma is learning how to print the letters of the alphabet as well as trace numbers and colors.

“She is talking about kindergarten,” said Griffin whose eldest daughter, Rebecca, 7, is a second-grader at Center Elementary School.

Holly Cook welcomes the close relationship the Holiday Park United Methodist Pre-School has with the Plum School District with respect to budding kindergarten students.

“They (the district) give us information and tips on what they would like us to work on so they (preschool students) are prepared when they go into kindergarten,” said Cook, 39, director of the preschool that is at the Holiday Park United Methodist Church on Sandune Drive.

The 4-year-old preschoolers attend the program three to four days a week for 2 12 hours a day.

Teachers ensure the students learn how to print uppercase and lowercase letters and phonics.

“And we teach them basic letter and number awareness,” Cook said.

The youngsters also learn language skills and have the opportunity to practice them during show-and-tell sessions.

To help ease the transition for students, the Holiday Park United Methodist preschool works with the Plum School District to have the students ride a school bus from the preschool and tour nearby Adlai Stevenson and Holiday Park elementary schools.

“That would be great,” Griffin said about the tour. “We are pleased with the preparation both of our children have received to go to kindergarten.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or

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