St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School in South Anchorage will be offering a full-time pre-kindergarten program beginning this fall.
A school board survey showed overwhelming support for adding a preschool to the kindergarten-6th grade elementary, said Principal Kathy Gustafson.
“There is no Catholic pre-school in Anchorage now,” Gustafson noted.
After evaluating the start-up costs and deciding on fees, it appeared to be a good financial move, she said, with the added boon of providing a feeder preschool for the elementary school.
“Our philosophy is to prepare children for success in kindergarten,” she said. “And our curriculum will introduce students to math, language arts, science, social studies and religion concepts.”
Students will learn prayers, Bible stories and participate in the seasonal celebrations of the Catholic Church.
Plenty of play, both indoors and out, as well as music and movement will be part of each day.
No major construction is involved, aside from the addition of one tyke-size toilet, with stalls, to the existing one in the parish’s nursery, where the preschool will be held, and a series of cubbies for storage of each child’s personal items. The sink from the present restroom will also be moved.
A certified teacher will lead the program, assisted by one aide. Maximum enrollment is 20 students, who must be 4 years old by Sept. 1, so that they meet the state requirement of being 5 by Sept. 1 of their kindergarten enrollment.
The preschool will be full-time, daily from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Additionally, parents may utilize the school’s before and after care program, which means for the monthly fee of $900 a child could be at school from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“About 90 percent of the respondents to our survey indicated they wanted a full-time preschool,” Gustafson said.
Catholic pre-schools are growing in popularity nationwide. With more moms and dads both working outside the home, there’s a demand for quality daycare and being in a Catholic environment is a big plus. Gustafson said Monroe School, a Catholic school offering pre-K through 12th grade in Fairbanks, has run a successful preschool for 13 years and provided suggestions to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
With Catholic school enrollments shrinking in many areas of the country, preschools bring in potential students for elementary classrooms. Presently, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton has an enrollment of 142 students in their seven classrooms. That’s an average of about 20 students per class, while the school has the capacity for 25 per room.
Gustafson said part of that enrollment deficit might be due to Alaska’s recent economic challenges.