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Neshoba Central to expand pre-kindergarten program

Image of Pre-K student and teacher

Neshoba Central pre-kindergarten teacher Priscilla Drury works with students Harper Henley and Arlie Burks. Drury teaches one of two Title 1 pre-k classes at Neshoba. The program will expand to four classes during the 2023-24 school year.

By Debbie Burt Myers

The pre-kindergarten program in the Neshoba County School District will double in size during the 2023-24 school session in what administrators said was a “long-term investment” in students.

The pre-kindergarten program will expand from two Title 1 classes to four with 20 students in each class.

Two teachers, two teacher assistants and an administrative assistant will be hired after the School Board approved the new positions during its Friday meeting.

Neshoba County Superintendent of Education Lundy Brantley is excited to see the project come to fruition.

“It is something we have been wanting to do for a long time,” he said. “This accomplishes our plan as we moved pre-k to the old junior high building because it can be easily expanded. We will divide two very large classrooms into four. So instead of having 40 students, we will have 80.”

Brantley said the expansion is part of the school district’s long-term goals.

“The long-term goals we planned for six years ago are here now,” he said. “We are enjoying the long term now. We are growing more and more and trying to get better every day.”

He said the expansion was “definitely one of my favorite opportunities that we have created.”

The Neshoba County School District provides a high-quality early childhood program to preschool-age children residing in the attendance area.

The pre-k program follows the Mississippi Early Learning Guidelines and Standards.

The environment is characterized by developmentally appropriate activities in:

  • Communication skills.
  • Cognition and general knowledge.
  • Physical well-being.
  • Fine and gross motor skills.
  • Self-help skills.

Deirdre Manning, Director of Federal Program/Pre-K, said that research shows “high-quality pre-k programs that intentionally provide direct instruction and practice on social-emotional skills, working memory, language, vocabulary, letter knowledge, print recognition, letter-sound knowledge, comprehension and mathematical ideas will help prepare students for the rigorous demands of kindergarten.”

Neshoba Central Elementary Principal Tiffany Plott is especially excited about the expansion.

“This will be the most impactful thing, academically, that we have done in the district,” she said. “When kids enter kindergarten following our pre-k, they are advanced. Now, we will have 80 kids coming over instead of 40. Early intervention is the key to success.”

The current Pre-K Center houses the two Title 1 pre-k classes, one special education pre-k class, a speech pathologist, the Federal Programs bookkeeper and director.

Students who participate qualify for enrollment based on educationally related and evidence-based measures of child development.

Children selected to attend are those most at risk of failing to meet the state’s academic achievement standards, Manning said.

The Pre-K Center is at 1125 Golf Course Road directly behind the new Performing Arts Center construction. At the end of the current school year, the district will remodel the building to add the two new classrooms. Also, with the use of American Rescue Plan funds, the building will receive new windows, HVAC units and remodeled restrooms.

Registration for classes for the 2023-24 school year will be from May 22 through May 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.