The crying has mostly gone away, replaced by learning, fun and play. And preschoolers at the Madison County Early Learning Center have settled into their routines during the school’s first year of operation.

That’s the word from ELC director Michele Barrett and teacher Allison Clarke, who provided an update Oct. 8 to the county school board on how the new consolidated county Pre-K services are going in the renovated portion of the old middle school in Danielsville.

Barrett said there’s no way to convey the story in data, words or photos.

“The best thing about the place is just the feeling you get when you’re there,” she said. “It’s a happy place.”

Barrett said there are 132 students at the ELC. The school operates from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and shuttle buses are provided from Colbert, Comer, Ila and Hull-Sanford elementary schools, along with a supervised walk from nearby Danielsville Elementary School. All but 20 to 25 students, who are dropped off and picked up at ELC, make use of the shuttle services.

Barrett and Clarke talked about the school’s daily schedule, which includes a lot of work on social skills and preparation for kindergarten. Children learn how to share and get along. They are encouraged to use their imaginations as they play.

“There’s not just playing; there’s a lot of serious work that has to happen in one year,” said Barrett.

Superintendent Michael Williams said a major consideration in combining all Pre-K services in one locale was giving teachers the ability to talk with each other about ideas on serving students.

Barrett said this has been a huge help to teachers, who were sort of “on an island” at elementary schools, but who can now quickly share information. She said the school has a data team that works to establish what areas need work, then a plan is put in place to help students improve in that area.

The change also meant Pre-K students now have normal lunch times, 11:30 a.m. and noon, compared to 10:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. at the elementary schools.

Barrett said the ELC is enjoying special days and events. For instance, she noted that the recent “Family Night” included 60 percent participation and gave the children a chance to show off some of their new skills in a class setting.

The school aims to purchase playground equipment for the children and seeks assistance from the community with the expense. (See Barrett's letter about this on Page 5A of the Oct. 10 print edition of The Journal.)

For more information about the Early Learning Center, call 706-795-5611.


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