SHEFFIELD LAKE

Sheffield-Sheffield Lake City Schools will re-purpose Forestlawn Elementary School, its current second-grade building at 3975 Forestlawn, so the district can serve more pre-kindergarten students.

Thirty 3- and 4-year-olds are usually on the district’s waiting list because of space limitations, Principal Gretchen Loper said. Moving the youngest learners to Forestlawn will allow the district to serve about 80, she said. There are 54 students in Pre-K this year.

The building will be renamed Forestlawn Early Learning Center and will also house kindergarten students and staff. Second-graders will move to Knollwood School, 4975 Oster Road, where first grade is currently housed.

However, the move has far deeper ramifications than serving more children.

Since 2011, the district has maintained a five-star rating for its Step Up to Quality Program, the highest ranking possible for an Ohio early learning program. The designation is awarded jointly by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Early learning programs offer pre-kindergarten children ages 3 and 4 social-emotional and academic foundations to prepare them for success in school and life. Program standards are based on national research to assure the best possible outcomes for young children, according to Loper.

Loper, with 26 years’ experience as a principal, four at both Forestlawn and Knollwood, explained that the district’s program offers a balance between play, which she said is very important for young children, and preparation for learning.

“Play teaches important social-emotional skills, including getting along with peers and sharing,” she said. In addition, children become familiar and comfortable being around adults who are not family members as well as school routines.

“Academically kids pick up so much by talking and interacting with others, especially adults. At 3 and 4 years old, they first become able to see a letter and connect it to a sound. It's the basis they need to learn how to read.”

Children who are read to by an adult and learn nursery rhymes increase their vocabulary and develop foundation skills necessary for their future academic success, Loper said.

Because Forestlawn and Knollwood were designed to serve young students, the district will incur minimal expense in making the move, Loper said. “We will paint, which is something we already do, and we will look at adding some playground equipment at Forestlawn,” she said.

The district will hire a pre-kindergarten teacher and an aide to accommodate the influx of students, she said.

Registration for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten will begin at 9 a.m. April 1, at Knollwood. It is on a first-come, first-served basis. Loper said tuition is charged, but the $150 per month for pre-kindergarten students is less than what many working parents tell her they pay for babysitters or child care in a week. Parents with questions may call the Knollwood school office at 440-949-4234.

Contact freelance reporter Michele Murphy at avonlakemurphy@gmail.com.

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