Mary Ginther looks for science books Wednesday in her new preschool classroom at East Elementary. Ginther acquired the books for her class from the Moffat County Early Childhood Center, and she is one of several teachers outfitting the three new preschool rooms at Ridgeview, East, Sandrock and Sunset elementary schools.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Mary Ginther looks for science books Wednesday in her new preschool classroom at East Elementary. Ginther acquired the books for her class from the Moffat County Early Childhood Center, and she is one of several teachers outfitting the three new preschool rooms at Ridgeview, East, Sandrock and Sunset elementary schools.

Preschool teachers furnish new classrooms

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— Toni Tuttle is sitting in a chair made for a 3-year-old, putting together a fake, wooden sink.

The new preschool center at Sunset Elementary School is on its way to being a functional classroom, including a "dramatic play" area that will feature a stove, oven and a play sink - if Tuttle can figure out where each of the screws go.

"The little girls spend most of their time over there," she said, gesturing at the area where students soon will be able to play house and doctor.

But setting up classrooms this year is a new ballgame for the preschool teachers.

With the new reconfiguration, dividing preschool classrooms among the four elementary schools and the Moffat County Early Childhood center, preschool teachers have to start from scratch.

"We ordered some new stuff," Tuttle said, working on the sink. "Everyone else's arrived put together, but for some reason I have to assemble my own."

Because the classrooms are split up now, all of the toys and activities that were once shared at the Early Childhood Center will not be enough. The teachers will have to divide up toys and acquire new furnishings for Ridgeview, East, Sandrock and Sunset elementary schools that will last for many years to come.

At East Elementary, Gayle Kendall and Mary Ginther have found creative ways to furnish their classroom and are hard at work to prepare for an open house Wednesday.

Each has dust on their old T-shirts and sweat on their brows from sorting through old furniture in the bus garage.

"We've been scrounging through looking for stuff," Kendall said. "I think they're things they took from the old middle school."

New additions included a couch that needs to be upholstered, a wooden table and chairs.

Both preschool teachers are excited about the new preschool configuration, especially their own playground situated in the school's courtyard.

"We used to have to share with the other classes at the childhood center," Kendall said.

There also will be new security systems installed, including a computer that will scan parents' driver's licenses when they drop off and pick up students.

But, there is a long way to go for the leaders of the six sections of preschool before they are ready for Sept. 8, the first day of school.

"It's a little overwhelming, trying to figure out what we're going to do with all 10 of the bulletin boards," Kendall said.

Kendall and Ginther have a vision of colorful beanbags and road signs pointing out different stations in the room.

"I just can't wait to see how the kids react to all of this," Kendall said about what will be her first year teaching preschool.

Ginther, who has been a preschool teacher for 20 years, is also excited.

She said reconfiguration is better for students because they'll start in the schools they'll continue in through fifth grade.

Tuttle has been with the district 15 years, but said the excitement of a new year never wears off.

"I'm so excited to have just another great year with the kids," she said. "I've talked to parents this summer who say their kids can't wait to be back to school. This age just really wants to be in school."

One of the things Tuttle looks forward to is being able to see some of her former students as they advance through the elementary school.

Since preschool starts a week after other grades, Tuttle is going to visit the kindergarten class of one of her students from last year.

"I just want to see her, make sure she transitions OK," Tuttle said. "It's because I care about them. They're my life."

Eventually, the sink Tuttle is working on began to take on the shape of a toy that will be used in the new preschool room for years to come.

"It's so exciting," she said, admiring her work. "I think it's really turning into something."

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