Morrill Public Schools has taken a huge step to advance the role early childhood education has in the school district.
The school district is building an early childhood facility which will be complete in July of 2017.
Joe Sherwood, superintendent of Morrill Public Schools, said that one of the reasons the district is building the facility is there are two home-based daycare providers in Morrill that have been there for quite awhile. Due to capacity, the two daycare providers are not able to service all of the Morrill, Lyman, and Henry communities.
Sherwood hopes the facility will serve the community and keep the students in Morrill.
“This will give the community the opportunity to engage with our kids and allow student relationships and parent relationships to form right here in Morrill,” said Sherwood. “For years, daycare aged children have gone to Torrington, to Mitchell,to Gering to form relationships and then they just stay in that community (to go to school).”
Sherwood said that there are plenty of families in the area now and the possibility of families moving into Morrill is now greater with the preschool and daycare options.
The structure will be around 10,000 square feet. It will have two infant rooms with a capacity for eight in each, two toddler rooms for 12 children ranging from 18-36 months, and three rooms for 3- and 4-year-old preschool each with a capacity for 17 students.
The facility will house 90 students.
In the past, there was only one preschool room in the elementary school where preschool was offered for 3-year-olds in the morning and 4-year-olds in the afternoon.
Last year, there were 23 students in 3- and 4-year-olds preschool.
This year, there are two preschool rooms at Morrill Elementary and there are 31 students in preschool. Preschool is available for 3- and 4-year-olds. Parents can opt for either full-day preschool or half-day preschool.
Roxie Murphy, instructor with Morrill, said she has been honored to be the teacher of the 4-year-olds classes and blessed that she will now be the director of the Early Childhood Facility.
Murphy said this is going to be the first early childhood education center in Nebraska that is going to provide for infants to four-year olds.
Murphy said she will not want to be bogged down with paperwork in her new job as she will be want to be with the students most of the day.
“That is my love, the kids, not paperwork,” said Murphy.
Murphy has 20-plus years of teaching experience and said that the students are currently provided many academic and social learning activities throughout the day.
Murphy said that the students in the preschool in Morrill are ready for kindergarten learning because of the preschool programs.
“That social piece before kindergarten is so important. Being able to share, getting along with others, sitting quietly, that is so important before kindergarten,” said Murphy.
Murphy said that social activities are a big part of the day as well as getting students to think.
She has the students use phrases like “I think,” “I wonder,” or “I notice.”
“Their brain is so curious at that age,” said Murphy, “that’s what I’m having them do. Try to wonder about the world.”
Murphy said the academic piece is having students notice letters, understand the sound of letters, and get pre-reading skills.
Students also focus on rhyming, notice the spelling of their name, and others names.
“All those activities that grow their brain,” said Murphy. “We definitely don’t sit in front of the T.V. because this is not daycare.”
Students have a brain break in the afternoon where Murphy said they rest their brain and be fully motivated for their next activity.
There are two instructors currently but there are also five para-educators with the instructors.
Parents also volunteer their time in the program which Murphy said is a blessing.
Murphy said Sherwood and Keri Homan, principal of Morrill Elementary, are great at finding more workers when the preschool needs it and being involved in the classrooms themselves.
Also in the building will be the new district offices. The superintendent, business manager, and assistant business manager will all be in the facility.
The project will cost around $1.5 million. The school district has decreased the general fund levy from $1.05 to $0.99 in order to levy $0.06 in the special building fund. Through this, the school district will be able to fund a seven-year lease purchase agreement approved by the school board.
“The Morrill community has been great to work with,” Sherwood said. “It is so great to have a community that so desired this facility and this expansion project.”
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