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Fabulous Fours ready for students

DEMOPOLIS – Some Demopolis children are preparing to go to the big house, of school that is, with the new Fabulous Fours pre-kindergarten program at Westside Elementary School.

Dr. (Wesley) Hill saw a need in the community, Pre-kindergarten teacher Amy Hasty said.

“We started small but we want to expand it next year,” she said.

Hasty and Tracy Stewart will teach the first-year program, alternating one group of 25 students between two classrooms.

“One classroom has more play centers and activities and one will have more of an academic focus,” Stewart said.

The two women said the program is necessary to provide young children with the preparation and transitional skills they need to enter kindergarten.

“It’s an intervention time, a time to prepare them for what’s going on in kindergarten,” Hasty said.

“Kindergarten is not playtime anymore, it’s more academic now,” Stewart added.

The program, Hasty said, will teach soon-to-be kindergarteners the social and academic skills to help them move forward and be successful when they enter kindergarten.

“We hope the program will result in productive children who are ready to go to kindergarten,” she said.

The women said the program has been received overwhelmingly well by the community, to the point that parents were camped out in line an hour before registration began.

“We had a two week enrollment in June and applicants were accepted on a first come, first served basis,” Stewart said. “That first week we had 25 and a waiting

list. Parents were lined up in their baseball chairs when we got there at 7:30 (a.m.). They had been there since 7 (a.m.).”

The Fabulous Four students are excited as well, with many noting they will be going to the “big school.”

“I think they’re excited about coming to the big school their brothers and sisters are going to,” Stewart said. “They’ll be eating in the lunchroom, going to the computer lab and going to the library.”

The program is funded partially by the Demopolis Board of Education and tuition fees paid by participants’ parents. In addition to the space and the two teachers, the program has its own playground with age-appropriate equipment.

“We hope by next year to write some grants and have it become a federally funded program,” Stewart said. She commended the board for approving the program during current state budget restraints.

“I think one good thing that has come out of this is the Demopolis School System is able to add a program rather than taking away,” Stewart said. “Many school systems are having such budget cuts they are having to cut programs, but we’re fortunate enough to be able to add a program.”

The women said they would like to see the program expand in the near future, with more classrooms and teachers.

“We want to be able to service more children in more classrooms,” Stewart said

Westside Elementary Principal Mary Glass agreed.

“I hope to see it grow,” she said. “We have an excellent staff that is able to do what we need to work with this program and make it happen.”

The elementary school is hosting an open house Aug. 10 from 2 to 3 p.m. for all grades, including the Fabulous Fours.