WAXAHACHIE

With Turner Prekindergarten Academy transitioning to a full-day schedule, enrollment will be at an all-time high. There will also be a new principal to lead the charge into the new school year.

In 2008, Stefani Foster worked at Felty Elementary as a first, third and fourth-grade teacher and was heavily involved with leadership and staff development.

Waxahachie feels like home to Foster, and since her departure, she longed to return. “I’m an Indian at heart,” she emphasized. “This is my hometown and where my little boy will go to school, and I’m so excited to be back.”

Foster was most recently with Red Oak ISD as the assistant principal at Eastridge Elementary, beginning in 2015.

“I worked with a wonderful principal that taught me so much, and I attribute so much to her because she gave me so much I needed to know to be able to walk in here and feel confident in my abilities to run the pre-k program,” Foster expressed.

She obtained a degree in early childhood education at Valdosta State University in Georgia — which is where she grew up — and received her master’s degree in educational administration at Texas A&M Commerce.

In her new role, Foster explains the objective of the curriculum is to enrich the students to gain a head start on a reading level. The school day is not limited and more time can be spent sharpening academic and social skills.

“Since we’ve got these kiddos for the whole day, why can they not leave us at the end of the year as early, emergent readers and not just learning letters and numbers but ‘we are ready to hit kindergarten and get started on reading," Foster elaborated. 

THE TRANSITION

“With pre-k expanding to a full day we obviously need the room because we have doubled our classrooms,” Foster explained. “Challenge Academy is going to the old high school, so there have already been renovations to the school.”

As of now, classroom furniture is stacked in the hallways to better prepare the building for the additional space and for the floors to be waxed. The walls are to be coated with a fresh layer of paint while posters and propaganda suited for the older students will be taken down. There is also a lot of space built for computer tops that will be eliminated to suit the younger demographic. Also, all of the rooms will be equipped with interactive television screens.

The building will be beautified for the youthful crowd. A brand new playground area will be installed particularly for the pre-k kids instead of sharing the first playground with Little Chiefs Academy, a daycare housed in the Turner building. The playground will include a wheelchair friendly area, too.

With the migration of Challenge Academy to the old high school, classrooms are available, as the prekindergarten academy has grown from 11 classrooms to 20. All but one room in the Turner building has a specific purpose.

Additional personnel was hired, creating a team of eight pre-k teachers, and four preschool program for children with disabilities teachers. Every pre-k teacher is matched with a paraprofessional, and two paraprofessionals are paired with each PPCD to provide adequate attention to the needs of the students.

Also, two individuals will fill the PPCD pre-k collaboration positions.

“That means it’s a teacher that is dually certified,” Foster explained. “So they are certified to be a pre-school teacher, but they are also certified to be with special education. It’s called inclusion so your student who doesn’t have severe needs, and you can collaborate and work in a pre-k classroom but maybe just needs additional support.”

A total of 17 paraprofessionals are on campus. Their responsibility is to act as an extra set of hands in the classroom because group lecture with four-year-olds can be a challenge. While the teacher directs the class, the paraprofessionals' aid with the in-betweens.

During the school day, 17 classrooms will operate simultaneously.

The school day will last from 7:45 a.m.—2:45 p.m.

“When you have half a day pre-k, there’s only a little bit of time spent with the kids,” Foster elaborated. “You have recess, special time when they go to PE or the library. And then you only really get two solid hours with the kids. So this will give us so much more opportunity with them to really hit math, science and social studies and be able to focus on a broader area.”

Foster referenced it as “the gift of time.”

The academy’s curriculum and instruction are based on the Texas Pre-Kindergarten Guidelines, which is the state standard. The school will use the same guidelines in addition to their student goals. Even with the state standard, the school has higher expectations here and there. With the longer days, the students will be able to reach more of those academic goals.

The students also make time for music class, physical education, art and a STEM lab is assessable for the kids.

ENROLLMENT

Enrollment is not at an exact number, but last year the pre-k program had between 150 and 200 students. Foster said the precise amount of students who can register had not been distinguished, but at least 50 additional students could be enrolled.

At the last Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees meeting, it was approved for district faculty to enroll their kiddos in open seating on a first-come-first-serve basis. The cost for this is not set in stone yet.

But there are qualifications to enroll at Turner Prekindergarten Academy. A child must be at least four years old on-or-before Sept. 1 of the upcoming school year. A child enrolling in the Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) can register at age three.

Pre-k students are required to enroll in person on campus while returning students can register online.

Enrollment for the 2018-19 school year opens July 30. For more information, visit www.turner.wisd.org or call (972) 923-4690. Turner Prekindergarten Academy is located at 614 N. Getzendaner St. and is open from 7:30 a.m.—4:30 p.m.

Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450