The Journal Gazette
Thursday, July 11, 2019 1:00 am

Countdown to kindergarten

Summer program helps incoming students get ready

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

About a dozen soon-to-be kindergartners had Haley Elementary School nearly to themselves Wednesday morning as they continued to learn what to expect at school through Kindergarten Countdown.

Now in its seventh year, the four-week United Way of Allen County program serves youth with little or no pre-K experience or who are limited English speakers. Students learn classroom behavior and what school is like, and they take a field trip to Eagle Marsh, said Tiffany Bailey, vice president of community impact for United Way.

“It's a program we love,” Bailey said at a news conference Wednesday.

Haley is one of six Kindergarten Countdown sites between Fort Wayne Community and East Allen County schools. Most will host Parkview's Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, which is offering services such as immunizations, vision and hearing screenings and wellness visits to children 18 and younger.

“It's equivalent to a physician's office,” Krystal Miller of Parkview said.

Families can schedule an appointment by calling 1-877-774-8632. The care mobile, which visited Haley on Wednesday, will be at Indian Village Elementary on July 22, Price Elementary on July 31 and Southwick Elementary on Aug. 1. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Services are offered at no charge to families without medical insurance, but all other insurance coverage is accepted, according to a news release.

While patients visited the care mobile at Haley, Kindergarten Countdown participants played in the school gym and even got Principal Brian Howard to join in.

Schools identified students for the program during kindergarten orientation.

Kindergarten Countdown, which began Monday, is offered at no cost to families and provides free breakfast and lunch to the children through the summer food program, the release said.

Using a hands-on, exploratory approach to learning, the program focuses on such skills as literacy and language development, the release added.

FWCS appreciates the opportunity to help prepare students for the upcoming year, said Hayley Sauer, director for elementary education. The district's other Kindergarten Countdown sites are Maplewood and Waynedale elementary schools.

Tamyra Kelly, spokeswoman for EACS, said it is a benefit to watch incoming kindergartners experience school-related activities for the first time, such as getting off the bus and learning to open a milk carton at lunchtime.

Teachers have told United Way that Kindergarten Countdown participants arrive confident on the first day of school, Bailey said, adding that she loves hearing those stories.

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