Preschool program adds classrooms

Shenandoah County’s preschool program is off to a good start this year as it now offers two additional inclusion classrooms to serve more children.

Selena Rhoades, coordinator of preschool services, said, “One reason preschool and early intervention is so important is due to brain development. For instance, neural circuits, which create the foundation of learning, along with behavior and health, are most flexible within the first years of life. Overtime it becomes more difficult to change.”

“Economically, there are also many benefits,” she added, “There is $3-$7 saved for every $1 spent on early childhood education.”

Preschool can help the children later on in life as well as it can increase the future productivity of the workforce.

“Children who attend a preschool program are proven to earn up to $2,000 monthly,” she said.

In Shenandoah County, there is one preschool center in the county located behind Peter Muhlenberg Middle School, where educators conduct screenings, hold child study meetings and host a toddler classroom that meets three times a week for 75 minutes.

There are also nine Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI)/Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) fully-inclusive classrooms in the county. Three are at Ashby Lee Elementary School, three at W.W. Robinson, one at Central High School and two at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Shenandoah County uses a fully-inclusive preschool model that combines children with special needs and children without special needs “in order to educate the child in their least restrictive environment with their typically developing peers,” she said.

She said each inclusion classroom can have up to 18 students. The toddler group currently serves 11 students and this number is constantly changing throughout the year based on the individual needs of the students.

“These numbers have increased from the previous years due to the additional two VPI/ECSE classrooms that were added this year,” she said, “The numbers have also increased due to the number of preschool referrals we have received this year.”

Last year at this time, they received 39 student referrals. This year, they received 72 referrals.

Rhoades said that there have been discussions about adding an additional community-based placement option in the Mount Jackson area and offering an additional toddler group for the upcoming school year.

In the future, the program would like to add a classroom in the Strasburg area as there are only two at this campus.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com