New pre-K furniture for all classrooms
This school year brought a monumental change to Arlington ISD’s pre-K program. For the first time, the district offered full-day pre-K for four-year-olds at nearly all elementary schools. Plus, many elementary schools also have half-day pre-K for three-year-olds.
That means we need a lot of pre-K classrooms!
This big change is requiring renovations and construction – funded by 2019 Bond voters– to make sure each campus can provide the district’s youngest learners the best possible educational experience all day long.
Pre-K registration for 2021-22 is open now!
According to Ken Foster, a longtime pre-K ESL teacher at Kooken Education Center and now a district early childhood specialist, full-day pre-K benefits the students, along with their teachers and families.
“Full-day pre-K permits teachers to have more time to implement effective instructional strategies,” Foster said. “It allows teachers to dwell on important topics to build meaning and bring relevance to the students’ lives. Teachers have more opportunities to build relationships with the students and their learning. And students have more time to connect their learning with their families and communities.”
More pre-K classrooms needed
Arlington ISD is committed to providing classrooms designed specifically for three- and four-year-olds. The State of Texas is funding program costs like teachers, teaching assistants and other program needs for full-day pre-K, but it does not fund facility needs or classroom modifications to implement full-day pre-K.
The introduction of full-day pre-K means students spend the entire day at school, which essentially doubles the need for classrooms and teachers. Enrollment is also expected to grow, increasing the demand for classrooms and teachers even more.
That’s where the 2019 Bond comes in. The bond, which passed in November 2019, includes funds for the facility renovations and furnishings needed to ensure every elementary school’s pre-K classrooms meet district standards. Depending on individual campus needs, the district is renovating existing classrooms or building classroom additions.
Lots of new bathrooms
“The standard pre-K classroom at Arlington ISD elementary schools is expected to have a restroom contained within the classroom and space to accommodate the district’s new furniture and equipment specification,” said Kelly Horn, Arlington ISD executive director of plant services. “The district’s plant services team worked closely with administration to assess both space needs and equipment needs to facilitate our current pre-K student enrollment and possible enrollment growth.”
That means the district is building a lot of new bathrooms.
A restroom in each pre-K classroom is essential. Most pre-K students are not developmentally prepared to walk out from their classroom to use a restroom without supervision. For most toddlers and preschoolers, pre-K is their first experience away from home.
“As pre-K teachers, we help our young learners in so many different areas, not just academically,” said Nora Cloud, a pre-K ESL teacher at Duff Elementary. “One major skill we focus on, especially in the first semester, is how and when to take a restroom break while at school. Four and five-year-old children need to have immediate access to safe and private facilities for many reasons.”
“Pre-K students are learning how to become independent, and most of them are still developing self-control skills,” said Dr. Jackeline Orsini, Arlington ISD director of early childhood learning.
While the restroom in the classroom gives students quick access, it also enables the teacher to assist and monitor the entire classroom at all times.
“Having a child-height sink and toilet in each pre-K classroom enables teachers to remain in their room with all students while monitoring bathroom activities” Orsini said. “Lessons and instructional activities are not interrupted, and safety is ensured throughout the day.”
Just as pre-K students need child-sized bathroom facilities, they also need child-sized furniture. To that end, all pre-K classrooms are getting new age-appropriate furnishings funded by the 2019 Bond.
Orsini and her pre-K team believe that furniture and materials play an important role in developing fundamental early childhood skills. The way the physical environment is designed and configured influences how children feel, act and behave. A child who feels welcomed and secure will be more productive, engaged and excited about learning new things.
The new furniture the district has selected supports those goals. Sized appropriately for the children, the furniture is also be spaced in a way that promotes good traffic flow, allows for large and small groups, and gives the room an open, interactive feel. The furniture is low and creates well-defined boundaries to allow the teacher an unobstructed view of the children at all times.
The furniture and room layout also creates six or seven well-defined centers in the classroom, each with a variety of materials to develop fine and gross motor skills and to promote creativity, interaction among the children and sensory stimulation. The centers also integrate a variety of different learning concepts that incorporate mathematics, science, phonological awareness, reading aloud, motivation to read, letter knowledge, technology, written expression, print and book awareness, and language development.
“Learning doesn’t just happen by mere attendance,” Foster said. “It needs to be cultivated over time in an environment where teachers have freedom to explore, investigate, practice and yes, ‘play’ with the students and the new information they receive.”
The new furnishings, bathrooms and renovations are designed to do just that.
The new furnishings are all being purchased and installed in the first two years of the 2019 Bond program, and construction for renovations is being phased over five years. So far, approximately 130 classrooms have been renovated, about 65 percent of the total.
Register for pre-K and learn more at aisd.net/prek.