By TRAVIS MORSE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — Mt. Vernon Township High School officials say their recent decision to place the district’s TLC Preschool program on an alternating year schedule was based, in part, on declining student interest.
The preschool program gives Career Technical Education students at MVTHS the chance to work with young children or observe pre-K classes to gain educational experience.
However, Superintendent Michael Smith said fewer MVTHS students are signing up for the preschool CTE class and more students have expressed an interest in classes for teaching older children.
The preschool will now only be offered every other year instead of annually.
“They’re still wanting to learn about the (teaching) profession, but as it relates to teaching older-aged kids,” Smith said. “It’s a CTE elective. Those are always based on interest.”
Principal Wes Olson said only about 15 MVTHS students had signed up for the preschool CTE class for the 2014-2015 school year.
That compares to about 30 students who signed up for the CTE education class focusing on older children for next year.
Another factor in the district’s preschool decision was the recent introduction of a new CTE fashion occupations class. About 30 students have signed up for this class for 2014-2015.
In order to keep offering preschool every year, as well as the fashion class and elementary education course, a new part-time CTE teacher would have to be hired, Smith said. Hiring another teacher is not financially feasible for the district at this point, he said.
“We work on doing things the most cost-effective way,” Smith said. “We have to look at the emotional side of offering the (preschool) program and we have to also look at the overall number of students served, the overall cost-effectiveness, the economics of the situation.”
The preschool issue came up for discussion at Monday’s meeting of the MVTHS Board of Education. At that time, several MVTHS faculty members spoke out against the district’s decision to change the preschool schedule.
“It just breaks my heart to not be able to provide that education for those kids,” said MVTHS teacher Brittany Boldt at Monday’s meeting. Boldt runs the preschool. “It’s my job to defend my students and my programs because it’s a good one, it really is, and it’s a good one that Mt. Vernon High School has had for a very, very long time.”
The TLC Preschool provides child care for several MVTHS faculty members, who bring their children to the on-site program. Some children belonging to the general public are also served by TLC.
Certain MVTHS students work with these children as part of the Child Care II CTE class, Olson said.
Boldt said Monday about 10 to 15 pre-K students are served by the preschool and that the program is “pretty self-sufficient” as it receives grant funding and a modest fee is charged to families who take part.
Another speaker at Monday’s meeting was Samantha Schwartz, a fifth grade teacher at Bethel Grade School.
Schwartz is a 2007 graduate of MVTHS and attended Child Care CTE classes while at the high school. She said the preschool program helped prepare her for her educational career.
“It was absolutely the most important part of my education,” Schwartz said of the CTE courses. “Everything I’ve learned comes from this program and I would be very sad to see it go away.”
The MVTHS Board made no decision on the preschool issue at Monday’s meeting.