Program provides pre-K education

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Chad Warren
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
With the beginning of the school year, Saber Nation continues to ensure every family has the resources they need for success. The Sure Start Program, a Department of Defense initiative, provides students with a stepping-stone before starting their formal education.
"The Sure Start Program focuses on children who may need an extra boost," said Sharon Bays, Spangdahlem Sure Start Program teacher and native of Waco, Texas. "It helps to lay some basic skills before heading on to kindergarten."

Classes place students in an environment where they can begin developing social skills while learning basic reading, writing and math. Though this program is unique to overseas locations, it is based on Head Start, a nationwide education initiative started by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Head Start, which began in its initial form in 1965, provides early childhood education to children younger than 5 years old from low-income families while focusing on cognitive, social and emotional development. Rather than being income-based, the Sure Start Program weighs different criteria to determine eligibility, with priority given to families of rank E-4 and below. Factors like the number of children in the household, single-parent households, a parent whose primary language is not English, are among the criteria used in determining priority.

Classes are limited to 18 students each, with two classes being offered for families here: one at Spangdahlem Elementary and one at Bitburg Elementary. One tenet of the program is the mandatory parent involvement, which requires parents to spend a certain amount of time with the students in the classroom environment.

"It helps the children see that their parents are interested in what their child is doing and that education is important," Bays said. "It helps lay a good foundation for kids and parents."
In overseas locations such as Europe, the options can be limited for preschool students. According to Chi Anne McGrew, 52nd Fighter Wing school liaison officer and native of Kansas, the Sure Start program gives families another option if they are eligible.

"The German kindergartens that are available are fantastic, but a lot of the times those are hard to get into," she said. "This is a great program that goes forward with that and gives them the boost." For more information about the Sure Start Program, including eligibility and class dates, contact the Bitburg or Spangdahlem Elementary School. "There is so much for children to learn," said Bays. "This is a structured program that gives everybody an opportunity to learn at their own rate."