Me and my shadow at area’s preschools |

Me and my shadow at area’s preschools

John HartBethany Gardner (left) and Merrill Grant work on a math problem at Ready Springs Community Preschool in Penn Valley.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

A few educators joined preschool teachers at several preschools around the Nevada County Thursday.

Community leaders, such as Ready Springs School Superintendent Merrill Grant, took the morning to help dry children’s tears, fingerpaint, read, and keep three- to five-year-olds safe on the playground – and gain an appreciation for the work of preschool teachers and child-care providers.

Grant had only to walk across the parking lot from his office at the Penn Valley school, where the children were used to seeing him every day, anyway.

Well over 6 feet tall, Grant took a seat at a table with a few boys who combined trucks and molding clay. While one lad mashed pumpkin-colored clay into a truck, Grant rolled out a section of the clay and applied a cat-shaped cookie cutter.

“Magic, magic,” Grant said as held the cat-shaped clay up for view. “Meow, meow,” he said to nonplussed preschoolers.

The state preschool and Head Start program, like the one at Ready Springs Community Preschool, do what kindergarten used to do, Grant said. Academic requirements for kindergarten are higher than they used to be, and kids need to get started sooner learning simple things – like lining up to go to recess – earlier, Grant said.

Teacher Cindy Santa Cruz said the programs were vital to helping children be successful in grade school. Santa Cruz works with aides Annie Black and Karen Rynberg to teach children how to follow rules, get along with each other and brush their teeth. Rynberg was set to retire after 23 years as a special education aide in Grass Valley schools when the post at Ready Springs came up.

A 4-year-old named Mercedez asked a visitor if she had chewing gum in her mouth, and let her know she should get rid of it: It’s not allowed in school.

At Ready Springs, the state preschool operates in the morning and the Head Start program in the afternoon.

“There’s a lot of paperwork and we have to keep the two programs separate,” Santa Cruz said.

The state preschool program is for families whose incomes are less than 75 percent of the area’s median (income), and Head Start is available for families with lower incomes.

It’s often a struggle to get money to keep preschools going, and the annual Child Care Job Shadow Day is designed to raise awareness of the programs’ importance among those who vote and those who influence voters, Santa Cruz said.

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