Working the bugs out at the Early Childhood Center in Craig
CRAIG — Students, parents, teachers, and staff are “bugging out” at the new location of the Moffat County Early Childhood Center.
Almost 190 preschool students, age 3 and 4, started classes Tuesday, Sept. 9.
Public preschool classrooms moved from each of Craig’s three elementary schools and the administrative building into one building — formerly East Elementary School — which, during the summer, was transformed into a fully licensed Early Childhood Center, offering half- and full-day services.
“I feel like we won the lottery when we moved,” said preschool teacher Shelly Duzik.
She and other teachers have been equipped with more space, smart TVs, and laptops to aid them in their work. Students have access to a gym and cafeteria, where full-day students are served breakfast and lunch.
Onsite support staff, include a secretary; health technician; two early childhood special educators; speech, occupational, and physical therapists; and other specialized staff members who work on a variety of needs and provide students and teachers with additional support.
“I’m elated that we are all together. I think it will make interventions a lot easier,” said Early Childhood Special Education teacher Carol Taylor.
To ease the transition, returning students were assigned the same teachers they had the prior year.
“We had promised families that we’d do that, and we’ve been able to. That has eased the transition somewhat,” said Director Stephanie Davis.
Each classroom was assigned a bug and a color. Each teacher wore a T-shirt, made by teacher Gail Kindle, to match their room’s bug and color. Support and administrative staff wore turquoise T-shirts with a bug catcher logo.
That, Davis said, was helping everyone find the correct room, adding that staff members are also working out a few bugs after the first days of school. For example, many of her staff started wearing tennis shoes on Wednesday.
“I walked 8.5 miles the first day,” Davis said.
The conversion from elementary to preschool required very few changes to the facility.
“The building was well set up for preschool, and changes that were made had very limited budget implications,” Davis said.
Some of the minor changes include the addition of linoleum and sinks on some classrooms to comply with health codes and the addition of a second preschool playground to accommodate a larger number of students.
“Other than that, this building, with minimal effort and money, was preschool ready. We have been relicensed through Colorado Department of Human Services,” said Davis, adding that facilities consolidation reduced the licenses needed from five to one.
Initially, the school district thought it would continue to offer preschool at Ridgeview Elementary, however increased enrollment a week before the start of classes required preschool space to be used as a kindergarten classroom.
To help parents who have to drop students off at two schools and relieve traffic congestion, the Early Childhood Center has rolling drop-off from 7:30 to 7:50 a.m. and staggered release times from 2:45 to 3:05 p.m.
Full-day students are dropped off and picked up at the front of the school, while, in the morning, half-day students are dropped off along Texas Avenue.
“We’ve had the superintendent, senior leadership and even maintenance staff here every morning to assist with meeting parents and students at their vehicles to check-in,” Davis said. “Things went very smoothly this morning. As we are building new processes for our program, we will continue to fine-tune a few things that have been a little bumpy.”
Later in the year, Moffat County School District administrators will also relocate to the building. Davis thinks there is enough space to also allow the preschool to expand.
“We meet children where they are at and help them become ready to be learners,” she said. “It truly is the gateway for setting children up to succeed in their educational journey.”
On Friday, she will evaluate any openings and process applicants to fill remaining spaces. To learn more about the center or arrange a visit, call Stephanie Davis at 970-824-2552.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.