As back-to school nears, District 25 set for Aspen's new preschool

Aug 6, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

A new three-day-per-week preschool is set to debut at Aspen Early Learning Center this fall, a further expansion of the Fremont County School District 25's focus on early childhood education.

Riverton superintendent Terry Snyder said almost half of students in the district do not attend preschool before entering kindergarten.

Many attend private preschools, while others enroll in Headstart programs for lower income families.

"Then there's a group kind of in the middle," Snyder said. "We're just trying to fill in that gap."

The program is expected to build up slowly over the next few years, with just about 15 students this year.

"(When Aspen was conceived), we had a vision for what we wanted but we didn't have an exact blueprint for it, which I think is good. To promise more than we could deliver - we didn't want to do that," he said.

The district will now work with groups like the Department of Family Services to identify students that are most appropriate for the program.

He said the district is being diligent to ensure it does not compete with private preschool providers.

Kindergarten teachers sometimes notice that students not attending a preschool can be a little behind when starting school, Snyder said.

That doesn't mean preschool an absolute necessity, though.

"If you have parents who are doing a nice job with their kids, and they interact a lot, they might not need preschool," Snyder said.

Looking to expand early childhood education, Aspen started its "Learning with Littles" program in 2016, hosting programs each Thursday for kindergartens.

Administrators also have worked with local agencies to compile various information, like immunization services, at Aspe in hopes of the school being a "one stop shop" for parents of young children.