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Former southside elementary school prepares to become new preschool for SJSD

District leaders are excited to house all preschool operations under one roof.

Posted: Aug 3, 2021 10:40 PM
Updated: Aug 4, 2021 10:45 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) it’s a new chapter for a familiar facility in the St Joseph School District.

The former Lake Contrary Elementary School is now the St. Joseph Early Learning Center, the new home for preschool district-wide.

Toni Lynn Gardner, early childhood coordinator, SJSD said the new preschool will succeed the two existing preschool programs at Oak Grove Elementary and the Keatley Center.

The building, which has sat empty for the past few years, is getting a refresh. The district has been busy gathering supplies and touching up classrooms.

Gardner said the school will house 19 classrooms some focused on individualized learning, as well as larger spaces to accommodate programs such as Parents As Teachers.

Summer Deatherage, whose daughter has autism, is also looking forward to the benefits a more collaborative environment for learning can provide.

"I’m very excited," She said. "I think it’s a great use of the space down here. With all the teachers and the therapists being able to be together and collaborate, it’s going to be better for everybody all the way around."

After years of an uncertain future, the district is happy to find a new use for an old space.

"Anytime people have memories associated with a place, you want to see it maintained." Gardner said. "if we can use it in a way that’s going to benefit our community, more students in our community will be able to be serviced through our early childhood program."

District leaders also said they like the school's current layout, it's all on one floor and ADA compliant. The first day of school for the new early learning center is set for August 30th.

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