JPS Receives UPK Grant To Support Early Education

“Who would you like to draw first in your family?” asked Cindy Sampson, Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) teacher from A Children’s Place. “Remember we are creating a book about our families so it can be your mother, father, brother, grandmother anyone who is in your family.”

Sampson’s UPK students were doing an extension activity based on the UPK Common Core module, “Families and Communities.” Students created a family book in their literacy stations where student drew each member of their family, labeled the pictures with the family member’s name, wrote a sentence about each family member and created a cover for their book with the title and author name.

Before completing the book activity, Sampson conducted a read-aloud of “Families” by Ann Morris. Sampson talked about the parts of a book like the front cover and spine. She also described what an illustration was and asked students to find one in the book. With prompting and support, she also asked and answered who, what, when, where and why questions about the book and helped students retell important facts and information.

Sampson’s lesson at A Children’s Place is just one program and local agency that will benefit from a New York State UPK Grant the Jamestown Public School district recently received. The $661,000 UPK Grant helps increase and expand the availability of high-quality prekindergarten placements for Jamestown children. A total of 126 new UPK students will be added in Jamestown with the grant. This is a combination of new seats and increasing 52 half-time students to full-time. The grant will help offer more opportunities for students to obtain kindergarten readiness skills.

“Our current UPK Program enables us to provide for 228 students in both half- and full-day programs,” said JPS Director of Schools Tina Sandstrom. “Our annual kindergarten enrollment hovers around 400 students, therefore our current available UPK funding limits the district to meeting the needs of only 57 percent of the community’s eligible prekindergarten students. With this new grant, we can achieve an 89 percent rate among those Jamestown UPK-eligible children and families who are awaiting services.”

The grant specifically funds 16 new seats at the YWCA of Jamestown, converting 52 seats from half-day to full-day at A Children’s Place and YMCA Heritage House, and providing 110 new seats through Chautauqua Opportunities’ Head Start Program. Jamestown Schools also provides UPK classes at all of the district’s elementary schools.

An important part of the grant is moving students from half-day to full-day, which will allow for more in-depth opportunities to implement the NYS UPK Common Core Standards, which at the UPK level includes six domains: approaches to learning (engagement, creativity and imagination, curiosity and imitative and persistence), physical development and health (learning about their five senses, coordination, physical fitness, personal hygiene and care and safety rules), social and emotional development (self-concept, self-regulation, relationships with others, accountability and adaptability), and communication, language and literacy (motivation to communicate, expressing ideas and vocabulary, foundations of reading, writing, speaking and listening) and understanding of the world (basic math skills like counting, measurement and describing shapes, science and social studies skills, and an understanding of music, art and dance). The expansion to full-day also gives time for parent education and family engagement.

“All JPS UPK classrooms exemplify a balance of intentionally-planned activities and quiet play, as well as, student self-initiative activities,” said Sandstrom. “Each UPK classroom has clearly defined centers such as: blocks, science, library, language arts, computers and iPads, water and sand tables, science/nature/discovery and mathematics. Our goal is to prepare a well-rounded child for school and lifelong learning.”

All Jamestown UPK teachers are NYS Early Childhood certified and have all participated in NYS Common Core Curriculum ELA and module training. The classes also use the research-based Lawrence Hall of Science GEM kits provided by BOCES, which promote discovery, investigation and inquiry skills. Handwriting Without Tears is the handwriting curriculum used with UPK students across the district.

“The YWCA is excited to partner with the Jamestown School district for a new UPK program,” said Beth Oakes, executive director of the YWCA. “The YWCA has provided services for children through our day care and feel this is a natural progression enabling us to expand our services to help children become better prepared for school.”

For more information about Jamestown’s Universal Pre-School Programs or if parents are interested in registering their children, please contact the UPK district office at 483-4395 or 483-0924 or email tsandstrom@jamestownwnyric.org.