Pocahontas County Schools to host a Childhood Fair
The first day of school is always a stressful day, and not just for the students. For parents, it can be difficult to send their four-year-old off to school. Itﾒs even more difficult to remember all the forms and information needed to enroll their children.
With this in mind, Pocahontas County Schools is organizing a county-wide childhood fair on April 21 at Pocahontas County High School.
Director of Special Education and Students Services Ruth Bland said the fair is a way to ensure parents are prepared on all levels.
ﾓWhat has happened in the past is weﾒve opened up the registration process in three areas of the county in three different school which is good, but we havenﾒt been able to coordinate all the services that we need at all three areas,ﾔ Bland said.
With a central location and one day for all pre-schools, the fair will give parents the opportunity to learn about services, other than education, offered to children in the county.
ﾓWeﾒve gathered all the agencies together ﾖ Parents as Teachers, Head Start, North Central Community Action, WIC (Women Infants and Children), MountainHeart and Birth to Three,ﾔ Bland said. ﾓWeﾒre anticipating having a fair where all those entities are there at Pocahontas County High School and the parents will be able to see what services will be available for them in [the county]. They will be able to sign up for those services right there.ﾔ
The agencies will have information available about their services and how parents can obtain them.
ﾓThere are children in preschool that qualify for Head Start and thereﾒs children in preschool that donﾒtﾔ Bland said. ﾓWhen they do the preschool application, there are certain pieces of information that Head Start needs, so if youﾒre wanting [their] services, you have to provide some economic information.ﾔ
Head Start services assist with parenting, how to work with children at home, reading to your children and working on language skills.
ﾓWe do know that the parents are the greatest teachers, so Head Start can come in and give advice to those teachers, to those parents, in the home about how they can help their children to learn in school, also,ﾔ Bland said.
ﾓUnfortunately, what I have found out, is that the community at-large does not know the services that are all readily available here,ﾔ she added. ﾓThe WIC program is just a fabulous program to help new mothers with limited incomes to be able to feed their children.ﾔ
Along with the agencies, Bland said the Pocahontas County Preschool Collaborative plans to have a doctor and dentist available to do screenings.
ﾓWhen we have children come into preschool, or into any services from birth to five, thereﾒs a couple of things that have to be done and one is a health check,ﾔ she said. ﾓThe health check goes from birth all the way up to 18 years. With the help of Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, weﾒre going to be able to have a doctor on-site that day to be able to do the health checks.ﾔ
Once the child gets a health check, it is important to choose a ﾓmedical home,ﾔ their primary physician. Bland said it is important for the childﾒs record to maintain a medical relationship with one physician.
Next, parents need to choose a dental home. Bland said a mobile dental clinic came to the schools in November and will return for check-ups at the fair.
To ensure the transition into pre-school is smooth, the collaborative has created a survey for parents to answer prior to filling out an application.
ﾓIf we can get them off to the very best start, thatﾒs what we want to do, we need to have a survey in place, so we know how many need services and to what extent they need the services,ﾔ Bland said. ﾓWhen they turn the survey in, I can send them a pre-school application with a list of all the information they need in place.
ﾓBy the time April 21 rolls around, they will have all the paperwork in order, even if it means to direct them to the correct place to get a certified birth certificate, which you can get online now,ﾔ she added.
Although the fair is for students entering pre-school, Bland said the services are actually for children birth to five.
ﾓWe are really focusing on the three-, four- and five-year-olds that will be entering the school that need those health checks,ﾔ she said. ﾓThe birth to just below three, we can get them provided with services that they need to have so that by the time it is time to get them to pre-school, theyﾒll have their ducks in a row.ﾔ
Four-year-olds are eligible for preschool entry if they turn four before September 1.
The state department of education enacted a new law requiring all schools in West Virginia to begin serving all four-year-olds in the 2012-2013 school year. With a limited amount of space in each of the four pre-schools ﾖ Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, Marlinton Middle School, Hillsboro Elementary School and School Days Child Care ﾖ Bland said the school system could face some issues.
ﾓIf there are slots available within the county and if we have a child in Green Bank area that is on a waiting list, we have to offer them the slot here at Marlinton or at School Days or at Hillsboro,ﾔ Bland explained. ﾓWe have to serve them, but it doesnﾒt mean the parents have to send them.ﾔ
Bland said with the layout of the county, filling those slots can be an issue.
ﾓWhat our team has to do is look at the applications, and if you do have a child that is close to the Marlinton line, it might be okay for them to go to the Marlinton pre-school,ﾔ she said. ﾓNow, if theyﾒre in the Green Bank district, then the parents say, ﾑbut I want them in the school that theyﾒre going to attend.ﾒ When you fill out an application, thereﾒs not a guarantee that you will be in the district in which you applied.ﾔ
Even if parents choose not to send their four-year-olds to preschool, it is important to begin a relationship with the school system, and the fair is a good place to start.
ﾓThe other issue we get into is that parents choose not to send their children to preschool, which is great, thatﾒs fine because thatﾒs the parentsﾒ decision. Itﾒs not mandatory, but what happens, because we donﾒt have an idea of who they are, then sometimes they do show up the first day of kindergarten without the schools knowing. The idea of this is to prepare those parents for entering their children in school.ﾔ
On top of making connections with agencies, parents will have the opportunity to meet all the preschool teachers in the county, and the children will have a chance to meet future classmates.
Parents can pick up a survey at the board of education office or print it off of The Pocahontas Times website, attached to this story, at www.pocahontastimes.com
For more information on the Childhood Fair, contact Ruth Bland at 304-799-4505, ext. 2224.