When David and Jacklyn Aldrich transferred their four kids into the Chadwick School District three years ago, it was a longterm commitment. David, principal, and Jacklyn, special education coordinator, wanted to make a difference. And that’s exactly what they are doing. Right now, those differences are seen with the construction project behind the school, where a 5,400-square-foot preschool building is being constructed.
But soon, they hope the differences will be seen through the children who attend that new preschool center.
“The more we can do from a social and academic standpoint, the quicker they get going academically when we start them in kindergarten, first grade,” David said.
“It’s a three-prong triangle,” Jacklyn said. “It improves (them) socially, behaviorally and academically prior to them entering kindergarten. We are setting that stage for them to help prepare them. If there is a cognitive or developmental delay, I can catch that earlier. The earlier intervention you get, the greater the success for getting them at grade level.”
And success is exactly what the Aldriches and the staff at the Chadwick School District strive to see.
“Our teachers are here because they love kids, because they want what’s best for kids,” Jacklyn said. “They’re not here for pay. We can’t afford to pay them (what other school districts can) and yet we continue to get distinction in performance.”
The new preschool has been the talk of the town since Gov. Jay Nixon visited the small school in August 2014 with the news of the nearly $1 million grant to pay for the building. At that time, Jacklyn stressed that the $937,500 Start Smart Community Development Block Grant was to build a preschool facility — funding was still needed for everything inside the building. But the school didn’t have to wait long. In October 2014, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education awarded the Chadwick School District with a grant through the Missouri Preschool Program. The MPP grant pays for student supplies, materials and playground equipment.
So when asked how much the district must pay for its preschool facility, the Aldriches smile and say “zilch.”
“It’s completely funded by grant monies,” David said. “There was a lot of skepticism at the beginning (from the community). But there’s not anything out of their pockets.”
The new preschool building will have a room for the 20 existing preschoolers and another room to house an additional 20 3- and 4-year-olds. Both rooms have 1,000 square feet of “child space,” as well as a bathroom, kitchenette for cooking projects and direct access to the playground.
The building also has a kitchen, multipurpose room and a classroom for the Tri-Lakes Special Education Coop. Off the back of the building is 4,000 square feet for the playground, “just for preschool,” David said.
“The space alone — it allows us to do so much more with the preschool,” he said. “Even as small as we are, we have a waiting list now. We don’t think we’ll have any problems (filling 20 more seats).”
Cost to parents is minimal, if any, for children to attend. Parents interested are encouraged to call the school at (417) 634-9588.
The new preschool couldn’t come at a better time, David said, as the student population is on the rise and more room is needed in the elementary school.
“That will give me two classrooms (in the elementary),” David said. “The expansion comes at a good time because our enrollment is up about 12 percent from last year.”
David said this year’s first-graders have 24 in the classroom. While that’s “manageable” today, once that number hits 30, the class needs divided into two.
Today, the new preschool building has walls, a roof and sheetrock is going up with an anticipated completion date of Dec. 4 — just in time to get settled and ready to open for the second semester following winter break.
“I am so excited,” Superintendent Dana Comstock said. “It’s coming along nicely and we need it so bad. I’m excited to get our 3-year-olds in here. The earlier we get them in here, the better we are.”
And the project will end similar to how it began — with a big community celebration attended by the governor. But the Aldriches only have their sights set on the benefits the building is going to bring to the students and the community — because when school starts with more preschoolers is when the real work begins.
“For us, it’s not about the governor coming. It’s about this,” David said gesturing to the building. “It’s about doing something good for Chadwick. This is modern, more energy-efficient, safer. It looks nicer — everything about it is better.”