The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

District-wide preschool program debuts in Clovis


August 30, 2018

Jamie Cushman

Colten Von Tress, left, and Wyatt Saco read a book during choice time at Los Niños Early Intervention Center on Wednesday.

CLOVIS — Thanks to a new grant from the state of New Mexico, Clovis Municipal Schools is offering a district-wide preschool program at each elementary school site for the first time this year.

Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Joe Strickland said CMS did have a preschool program in years past, but it was primarily for developmentally delayed students; otherwise parents had to pay for their child to participate.

With 276 students currently enrolled in the free, optional program, Strickland said CMS already has 100-more 4-year-olds receiving pre-K education than last year and the district is hopeful to add up to 50 more students during the school year.

"That's pretty significant I think, having 150 more kids getting preschool experience," Strickland said.

Karri Hatley, principal for Clovis' preschool program, said students are given a chance to learn in a developmentally appropriate manner for 4-year-olds.

"Our curriculum is a play-based curriculum so when you look, it's going to look like a lot of play, but there's a lot of teaching that's being instructed," Hatley said. "We have literacy skills that we teach, numeracy skills, social skills, we're working on learning about being friends, making friends, regulating our emotions and those type of things."

Strickland said the half-day preschool classes meet for about 3 1/2 hours either in the morning or afternoon. Hatley said classes run primarily from Tuesday to Friday, with some Mondays included.

Strickland said each class includes one teacher, two educational assistants and a maximum of 20 students. He said regular and special education students are intermingled, with an ideal mix of 14 and six students, respectively, in each class.

"All of our classrooms are inclusive meaning that kids that are getting special services and kids that are not getting special services are all together, which we know is what's best for kids to be able to learn from each other and learn about each other," Hatley said.

Strickland said grants of about $900,000 for the school year and $100,000 for startup costs helped pay for the expanded pre-K program, and CMS also put in an additional $150,000 for furniture.

One unintended consequence of Clovis' receipt of the additional grant money in May is currently no students are attending Lincoln Jackson Family Center.

Strickland said that once the preschool program was expanded to include each elementary site, there were only about 60 kids left for Lincoln Jackson and Los Niños Early Intervention Center combined; so district officials decided it made the most sense to keep all those students together and to do so at Los Niños, which was designed specifically for preschool.

"The building is still ours, we just as of right now we don't have a determined use for it," Strickland said.

The Family Services program previously housed at Lincoln Jackson has been moved to La Casita Elementary "because we had an entire wing not being used," CMS Superintendent Jody Balch said in a message to The News.

Clovis school officials hope that by getting more kids in the classroom at an earlier age, they will be better set up for the future.

"There's been research done that kids who come to pre-K, whether it's our pre-K or another pre-K, it does show that they have a leg up on kids that maybe didn't have that opportunity, so we're excited on how it's going to impact Clovis schools," Hatley said.

"My wife's a 29-year kindergarten teacher and there's a big difference between kids that come in with those basic skills as opposed to coming in and not even being able to recognize the letters in their own name and stuff like that," Strickland said. "That puts them in a real disadvantage and so if they have that background and at least know the basics, it really helps kindergarten be more success and then all the way through."


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