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Kindergarten Roundup draws 98 'little learners' to Aspen center

Mar 17, 2017 - By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

Ninety-eight kindergarteners were registered Friday to enroll at Aspen Early Learning Center in Riverton.

During a school board meeting Tuesday, District 25 assistant superintendent JoAnne Flanagan said kindergarten teachers have set up an impressive system at Aspen, which now houses all of Riverton's kindergarten classes.

"They're just so bought in to what we're trying to do with our little learners," she said. "They go above and beyond all the time."

For the first time, the district plans a kindergarten graduation this year, which Title I coordinator Courtney Hill said will help give students "a sense of what graduation is at the beginning of their journey."

A point of pride for the school is the new "Kinder-Boost" classes, which are aimed at kindergarten-aged students who might not be socially or emotionally ready for a full kindergarten class.

The state doesn't provide funding for students younger than age 5, and superintendent Terry Snyder said the lack of preschool program means the district has "a history of kids not achieving at the level they should be."

The Kinder-Boost program aims to prevent students from being held back, which "is one of the most damning things" for a child, Snyder said.

"We believe these kids can learn," he said. "They were just in the wrong setting."

Principal Sheryl Esposito said when Kinder-Boost students come back for kindergarten the next year, "they'll be leaders in the classrooms."

She noted that students are now meeting growth percentages at higher rates than in years past.

"We had no idea that they'd grow as they have," Kinder-Boost teacher Meredith Novotny said. "What they're doing is amazing. We have some of them reading and writing."

The literacy coordinator at Aspen said that having all kindergarten classes under one roof has helped teachers share ideas that will improve students' foundational skills of reading and writing.

"We have deep collaborative conversations among the teachers," she said.

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