Hottest ticket in town

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Remember how people on television would sleep outside ticket booths to make sure they got tickets to their favorite shows, or maybe you have memories when you and your friends did that in reality.

Well, early Monday morning, Demopolis parents, and grandparents, camped outside the Westside Elementary School entrance to make sure their youngsters had a spot in the Fabulous Four preschool program this upcoming fall.

A few minutes after midnight Clarissa Mullen and her husband were the first to arrive at the doors.

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“I heard people were out here at five and six in the morning and when I went back and told that to my husband, he said ‘We’ll be out there at 12,'” Mullen, a U.S. Jones employee, said. “It was 12:07 a.m. when we turned at Robertson Bank.”

But the Mullens don’t have a four-year-old of their own and went through the overnight process for their grandchild.

“I want him to be in school and he wants to be in school,” she said, “and I think there’s advanced learning here. You have to start while the mind is fresh.”

The Mullens weren’t the only grandparents to set up shop outside the school for their grandbaby.

“I wouldn’t have done this for my child,” Sonja Sanford laughed, “but I’ll do it for my grands.”

Sanford said being in the program would allow her grandchild to be with his friends, which is something, she said, he is excited about.

Even Westside kindergarten teacher Angie Armstrong, arrived a few hours early to work in order to reserve a spot for her child in the program.

“I’ve been here since 2:30 because I want my child here with me,” Armstrong said as she sat in a folding chair between Sanford and Jackie Elmore who was also waiting to register her child for the program.

“I never dreamed that it would come to this. We have wonderful daycares in town,” program director and teacher Amy Hasty said about the parents-only sleepover outside the school. “I guess it’s the convenience and the fact that it’s more cost effective than regular daycare.”

Other reasons that could make a big difference between Fabulous Four and other preschools is that the Westside program has it’s own special reading program, is led by a certified teacher and two assistants, and prepares students for what’s ahead in regular school, academically and socially, Hasty said.

“Plus if the kids have siblings here, it’s a one-stop thing,” she added. “We have an extended day program when children could come at 7:30 in the morning and leave at 5:30.We have our own playground here too.”

“Amy sees what the kindergarten teachers here are doing,” Armstrong said, “and it just carries over into the other grades.”

“It’s just the best program here,” Elmore said. “When the kids leave Fabulous Four, they are already in the routine of doing things the same way as rest of the kids at Westside do.”

As of yesterday afternoon, Hasty said more than 25 spots in the classroom had been reserved and she estimated that all 30 of the spots would be filled by this morning.

“The first two years we only took 25, now, going into our third year, we are taking 30,” she said. “We meet with the board every year to cover our options and we will continue to grow if space at Westside allows us to – which I think it will.”

In order to become a Fabulous Four student, parents must fill out an application and provide a birth certificate and social security card. The child must turn 4 years old before September 2.

The program does have a waitlist for those who weren’t able to get an immediate spot.

“This year we had about 18-20 people on the list, but we number them as they come in,” Hasty said, “That way, with a completed application, they will be next in line.”