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Ole Miss Pre-K builds foundation

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PLAYTIME:Teacher Katie Krevda interacts with students during a free play period in her pre-kindergarten class at Westview Elementary School in Jonesboro on Tuesday.
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CURIOSITY:Faith Miller looks at a globe in Katie Krevda’s pre-kindergarten class at Westview Elementary School in Jonesboro on Tuesday.
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MESSY:Kinleigh Coffee plays with shaving cream during a free play period in Katie Krevda’s pre-kindergarten class at Westview Elementary School in Jonesboro on Tuesday.

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@chronicle-tribune.com

JONESBORO — Looking at the world through a magnifying glass is one of the ways Ole Miss Preschool and Westview Elementary students are encouraged to discover.

Ole Miss Preschool, rated a level three in the Indiana Paths to Quality program, uses play time and socializing to create a foundation for learning. According to Preschool Director Liz Strong, they’re a unique facility in that they teach kids from 3 years-old up to first grade, rather than pre-k through fifth grade. The program has been ongoing for nearly a decade, and is embarking on its first year with the On My Way Pre-K program. 

“We only have students from pre-k to first grade, so everyone is little here,” Strong said.

On Tuesday, students in Katie Krevda’s classroom used shaving cream to write their names on the desks. Down the hall, preschoolers practiced brushing their teeth using an app that played a song to make it fun. During recess, when weather permits, Strong said they give their students magnifying glasses and design scavenger hunts so they’re always engaging their minds and discovering.

“We promote investigative learning, and we’re really passionate about doing that in different forms whenever possible,” Strong said.

They keep the creativity moving by providing weekly themes. This week, the theme is household pets, and decorations for the school-wide carnival are starting to make appearances on the walls.

Krevda and Strong described Ole Miss Preschool as a “close-knit community.”

Krevda said she feels at ease being trusted by parents to “raise their kids from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day,” and teachers use technology to help foster the relationship. Secure apps used by teachers like Krevda at Ole Miss are utilized to share daily activities and pictures of experiences the preschoolers have.

Krevda, a teacher of the 4-year-old group, said her class right now is also unique in that she was with them at age 3 as well.

“They moved with me, and now I tear up at the thought of them going to kindergarten,” she said. “But it’s been amazing watching them grow and develop.”

Strong said preschool is a passion that is often underrated in communities.

“It’s a time when kids are ready to absorb knowledge and build a foundation to help them become successful in school and successful adults,” Strong said.

Krevda said she and her students work on foundational skills, like counting and learning the alphabet, but also work to establish strong social skills by discussing how to be a good friend or being a good listener.

And, as part of the On My Way Pre-K program, Ole Miss Preschool is able to offer around 20 seats for the free program during the regular school year, according to Strong. She said not all families will qualify for the On My Way Pre-K program, but they also have in-house scholarships for families to help reduce the cost.

“This is such an important stage for kids to get started,” Strong said. “We’re happy to have them here to bond with them and their families, so we work with them in whatever way we can.”

Strong said they are currently working toward a level four rating with the Indiana Quality Paths program, potentially making them the second preschool in Grant County to be accredited. For more information on On My Way Pre-K or preschool registration, parents can contact Westview Elementary which houses Ole Miss Preschool, Marion Li’l Giants Preschool, Westminster Preschool, or George’s Jungle.