Education

Preschool fair showcases local early education options

psheehan@centredaily.com

Aiden Hall will turn 3 in March.

That’s when he’ll be eligible to attend some preschools for next school year.

But his parents Carrie and Landon Hall said they don’t want to send their son to a place that is just a day care.

“If that’s the case, I would just send him to my mom’s all the time, but I want him to learn, to interact with other kids and teachers, and have that experience before he actually goes to school,” Carrie Hall said.

She said they teach the 2-year-old structure and etiquette at home, but it’s limited.

“We do as much as we can, but don’t have all the tips for the right behavior at school or at the playground when he’s among a group of others,” she said.

That’s why the Ferguson Township couple attended the annual preschool fair Saturday morning hosted by the Moms Club of State College at Mount Nittany Middle School.

Moms Club annually organizes the fair as a way to help educate local families about preschool and early childhood intervention care in the community, organizer Nicki Rusca said.

The event included 20 early childhood care programs, a majority from the Centre region.

“The process can be a little overwhelming, so the goal is to educate families on the options they have,” Rusca said. “They can narrow down what preschools they like and follow-up at the open house later.”

Some early childhood educators said preschool and early intervention is an important part of a child’s life.

At KinderCare, preschool teacher Chris Miley said preschool helps with the transition into kindergarten and helps expose children to different things.

“It plants the seed for their future,” she said. “If they stay at home with a parent, they can fall behind because they might not necessarily get the kind of exposure they would when they’re in a preschool setting.”

Miley said preschool exposes children to social, emotional and physical traits, but also exposes them to sicknesses, which could be a good thing.

“It can help build their immune system,” she said.

At KinderCare, preschool is available to children ages 3 to 5. It’s a paid program, but offers tuition assistance to eligible families.

The goal, Miley said, is to help the child learn basic skills that lead them to think “outside the box.”

“It’s age appropriate, but they learn things like numbers and letters and how to play with each other,” she said. “It’s play-based, but they still get educated.”

However preschool isn’t an option for everyone.

And a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit called Pre-K for PA is trying to change that by raising money and advocating for affordable, yet high quality preschool for every child in the commonwealth.

“We have had several successes this year,” spokeswoman for the central Pennsylvania area of Pre-K for PA Tracy Weaver said. “For example, we reached out to legislators, including Sen. (Jake) Corman, to advocate for increased pre-K funding. We were successful in getting the legislature to follow through in funding the increase, which ultimately made preschool available to more children.”

In 2016, Pre-K for PA was able to help expand the number of high-quality pre-K centers, made possible by the additional $25 million in funding for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and $5 million for Head Start in the state’s 2015-16 budget, Pre-K for PA spokeswoman Kate Philips said.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

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