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Preschool gets outdoor classroom

While workers were unpacking large cardboard boxes full of furniture behind Clark County Preschool Wednesday, Principal Kara Davies was looking over an art rendering of what the new outdoor classroom would look like.

The drawing showed the open space between two wings of the school filled with gray and green plastic chairs, tables and bookcases, tricycles, a tike-sized basketball goal, tricycles, a rainbow mat and other things to teach and entertain children.

“These are drums, but they look like tree stumps,” she said, pointing to items in the picture. “This is a water play area.”

“It’s just like a classroom … but outdoors,” she said. “It’s going in today, and we’ll be able to use it tomorrow.”

The new $40,000 outdoor classroom, purchased from Lakeshore Learning Materials of Midway, is a collaboration between the preschool and the local Community Action Council, which operates the Head Start program within the school on Beckner Street. Seventy-one Head Start students are taught at the preschool.

“They’re a great partner for us,” Davies said. “They support us over and above those 71 students.”

The outdoor classroom is intended to help 3- and 4-year-old students improve their motor skills, engage in social play and improve their emotional development to better prepare them for kindergarten and elementary school. 

Davies said an outdoor classroom is “good anyway, apart from COVID,” but particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, it provides a way for children to be out in the open air where the likelihood of spreading the virus is diminished.

“Ensuring that children can safely spread out but continue to practice lifelong skills, such as learning to negotiate, working together as a team and developing autonomy, is something that we are very excited about,” April Mullins-Datko, associate director of child development for the council, said in a statement.

Davies said the outdoor classroom will benefit all the students at the preschool.

“We’ll create a schedule, and every class will have an opportunity to have some time out here,” she said.

The night before the outdoor classroom materials arrived, the Clark County Board of Education approved a four-year facilities plan that had as its top priority the construction of a new preschool during the first two years of the plan.

It still requires state approval, but if that happens, it won’t lessen the need for the outdoor classroom furniture and other materials, Davies said.

“All this stuff is mobile, so if we get a new building, it will all pick up and go,” she said.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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