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Four-year-old Franny Chandler (left) walks to her preschool classroom with her mom and sister last Thursday during the annual preschool open house.

Nearly 100 attend WDC preschool open house

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A smile never left Franny Chandler's face last Thursday as she checked out the classroom where she'll attend her second year of preschool next fall.

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The four-year-old was among the 97 kids and parents who attended the annual Wadena-Deer Creek preschool open house at the elementary school.

"The point was to give the parents the chance to see who the teachers are and for the children to get a little bit of a familiarity with the school," said Patti Isaacson, the early childhood coordinator who also teaches preschool.

Chandler's favorite part of preschool: "Playing with my friends." After eating a complementary taco-in-a-bag and some ice cream, she got a chance to do that Thursday, making shapes with putty at a table as other tykes scooted around in a toy tractor, worked a plastic cash register and had a generally gleeful time.

Earlier Thursday, parents listened to a brief presentation from Isaacson and were able to register their children for the program.

Rates are based on family income. Classes for three year olds meet twice a week in mornings or afternoons. Parents of four and five year olds can choose to send their kids four half days or two full days. For more information or to register, contact Isaacson at (218) 632-2390.

"We'll take registrations all throughout the summer," she said. This year, 108 students are enrolled.

Wadena is home to three early childhood options that have earned the top rating - four stars - from parentawareratings.com.

In addition to the WDC community education preschool, the federally-funding Head Start program has also earned a top rank. Meeting in a WDC elementary classroom, the free program serves 15 students this year and is primarily for families at or near the poverty line.

There's more to the program than early childhood education, said Mary Rolf, Head Start supervisor at West Central Minnesota Communities Action. Head Start also makes sure children's physical and mental health, dental and nutrition needs are met.

"It's really a child and family program," Rolf said. "We support them in their journey to self-sufficiency."

Head Start applications are available year round at wcmca.org.

Romper Room Daycare (218-631-2360) on north Jefferson Street is the other Wadena early childhood education option that has earned four stars from parentawareratings.com.

On the website, Romper Room Daycare's Tina Reece explained that her "philosophy is that each and every child deserves an environment that is loving, nurturing and educational. Conscientiously created early educational experiences will promote exploration, critical thinking, cooperative play and the development of mutual respect. I also believe that interaction between the provider and the parent is key. When providers and parents work together, children thrive."

Another program from the WDC school district, Kid's Club, earned two stars. The extended child care option meets at M State Wadena and is open for kids 16-months to six years old. For more information, call (218) 639-7105.

The majority of children entering kindergarten have had some sort of preschool experience, Isaacson said.

"There's been a lot of research showing the earlier children get started the better that they do," she said. "It's our job to meet them where they are and get as far as we can then they're that much more ready to learn all the things they are going to learn in kindergarten."

Isaacson said preschoolers are a joy to work with. "I like their innocence. They're so free to tell you what they are thinking and they're so excited about everything they learn."

Most of the little ones are delighted to be at school, said Laura Zeise, a WDC preschool paraprofessional. "When they get older they aren't always so happy to come here."

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