Young 5’s program sees first year success at Bethel


By Amantha Garpiel

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BETHEL — Bethel Elementary School Principal Cassie Schoch shared that the school currently has four spots to fill in the 2023-24 Young 5’s program.

The Young 5’s is geared towards 5-year-olds born between March 1 and Aug. 1 who are entering into kindergarten, but may not have had any previous preschool experience or other similar school experiences.

The Young 5’s program has had a successful first year at Bethel Elementary School, according to Schoch and the two Young 5’s teachers, Samantha Stephens and Krissy Walsh.

“It’s giving them additional time for developing their skill set,” said Schoch. “Cognitively, language-wise, play-wise, all of that. They just need that additional time to mature and work with others.”

One big benefit to the Young 5’s program is that it allows students to work at their pace rather than attempting to catch up with their classmates who may have had previous preschool experience. The teachers of Young 5’s, Stephens and Walsh, are able to meet their students where they are academically and socially. Another benefit is the small class size; there are two Young 5’s classes, each of 14 students, which allows for Stephens and Walsh to have more one-on-one time with each student.

Stephens and Walsh presented the curriculum of the Young 5’s program to the Bethel Local Schools Board of Education upon seeing the success the program has had at the nearby Hardin-Houston Elementary School. The two gathered relative research and did their own through visits to Hardin-Houston Elementary School to see the program in action.

“We presented information of why our school district needed this program here,” said Stephens. “The biggest one (reason) was just maturity, getting the kids ready socially and emotionally for kindergarten. Class sizes was another one, our class sizes were so big, we need to work (one-on-one) with these kids. That was the biggest piece, just making sure we had time to work with the younger kids in our class.”

“To meet them where they are, build the foundational skills that they need,” Walsh added to Stephens’ statement.

There are two qualifications potential Young 5’s must meet to be offered a spot in the program. The first being when they were born, they must be born between March 1 and Aug. 1, the second is what percentile the children place in when being screened for kindergarten placement. Students who are offered a place in the Young 5’s program place below he 30th percentile in their screenings.

Students in Young 5’s work on developing skills with letters, phonics, numbers zero to 10, social-emotional skills and fine motor skills that are required to build a foundation of skills and knowledge before entering a kindergarten classroom. The curriculum in Young 5’s is taught through group and collaborative activities, hands-on learning and play. The things learned in Young 5’s set the students up to enter kindergarten as leaders in their class.

Stephens and Walsh have both previously taught kindergarten at Bethel Elementary School and are well aware of the skills that will be expected of the Young 5’s students when they enter kindergarten.

Parents of students entering into kindergarten at Bethel Elementary that are interested in enrolling their child in the Young 5’s program can contact the elementary school office at 937-845-9439 to schedule a time on either May 25 of Aug. 8 for a screening to determine if they are eligible to be enrolled in the program. Parents may also contact Schoch through the same office number with any questions.

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