BY BOB BUTTGEN
LIGONIER — Students entering kindergarten for the 2014-15 school year at West Noble will have the chance to attend a new pre-kindergarten class being offered by LEAP of Noble County and the West Noble School Corp.
The new program, Little LEAPS (Learning Early At Primary School), was announced this week by Denise Lemmon of LEAP and Dr. Dennis VanDuyne, West Noble superintendent of schools.
Funding for the program has been provided by an anonymous gift of $100,000 with the stipulation that a fundraising effort be launched to match the funding each year. Lemmon said the public is being asked to support the new program through donations.
Expected cost is
$33,000 a year for the classes which will be offered in July. Half of that will come from the anonymous donation and the other half is expected to come from donations from the public, including businesses and individuals.
Lemmon and VanDuyne spoke Tuesday at the monthly meeting of the Ligonier of Chamber Commerce, and outlined the new program.
Lemmon said the need for the pre-K classes came because of the disparity of skills presented by incoming kindergarten students each year.
“Some new students have never even picked up a crayon or can’t count, while others can count to 100 on the first day of class,” she said.
English-language skills are also a problem, she noted, because of homes where English is not the primary language. This applies to both Hispanic and Amish families.
“Readiness is the big issue,” Lemmon told the chamber members. “We estimate that only about 25 percent of incoming kindergarten students have gone to a pre-school. We have a huge need here.”
West Noble will provide classroom space at West Noble Primary School, as well as transportation. A majority of the funding will be used to
pay for teachers.
The classes will be held in two groups, one on Monday-Wednesday and another on Tuesday-Thursday, for about five hours each day for five weeks. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.
Another advantage of Little LEAPS, Lemmon pointed out, is that students will get used to riding a school bus, and they will be able to meet their teachers and principal, and others who will be there when school starts in August.
But the immediate push now is for financial donations to match the original grant, which is being administered by the Noble County Community Foundation. Donations will be
tax-deductible, Lemmon noted.
“This is a game-changing opportunity,” she said. “We hope parents will take advantage of this offer. But we are also looking for a community buy-in through donations.”
Donations should be mailed to the Noble County Community Foundation, 1599 Lincolnway South, Ligonier, IN 46767 and mark “Little LEAPS” in the memo line.
Both VanDuyne and Lemmon can be contacted for additional information.
They said they would welcome a corporate sponsor who could help the two groups meet the matching-grant requirement.