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Getting an early start

| Monday, Oct. 9, 2006

Moving seventh and eighth grade students from Conn-Area Catholic School to Geibel Catholic High School caused a void at the elementary that was quickly filled with a long-awaited preschool program.

When it was announced in mid-December 2005 that a middle school program would be established at Geibel by moving classes from Conn-Area, Sister Catherine Meinert, Conn-Area's principal, said the change became a wonderful opportunity.

But instead of just having empty classrooms, Meinert said a new preschool program was introduced during the 2006-07 school year.

"The seventh and the eighth graders going to Geibel gave us the opportunity to have a Catholic and Christian full-day program," Meinert said.

Meinert said while there are other programs in the area for 4-year-olds, none is like Conn-Area's in Connellsville.

In April and May, the school advertised to parents that the preschool program will give parents the option of placing their child at the school for five full days, three full days or three half-days.

Meinert said the three full days of the program has become the most popular option, with a full day being nearly six hours at the school and a half-day at three hours.

Meinert said 17 children have enrolled in the program.

"It has been a wonderful experience," Meinert said.

Preschool instructor Jan Spotts said the program is a way for children to learn self-discovery to ease them into the academic world while helping them with spiritual development.

Their technique for teaching young children is a learning-through-doing approach for math and reading.

"There are a lot of sensorial activities," said Spotts, who runs the classes along with an aide, Julie Scarry.

Activities include painting, reading, sorting, water pouring to learn motor control and balance, working with shapes, singing, dancing, puzzles and acting out stories from the Bible.

Before the daily learning begins, the children are allowed a half-hour of playtime. Spotts said the toys are mostly blocks, trucks, cars and puzzles.

"They have to be creative with it," she said.

The curriculum has made an impression on parents. Meinert said she has been getting calls from parents interested in enrolling their child in next year's program.

"The buzz around town is how good the program is," she said.

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