The new Little Panthers Preschool facility is almost complete — in time to accommodate a full roster of students for the 2019-20 school year, said Dr. Jami Jo Thompson, superintendent of schools.
At the Norfolk Public Schools’ regular board of education meeting Monday night, Thompson shared an update on the new preschool building at 2500 W. Norfolk Ave. She said the renovation project is about 75% complete. Administrators are planning to start school there on time, with the preschool’s first day of classes on Aug. 22.
The preschool enrollment numbers include 56 3-year-olds and 160 4-year-olds for 216 students total. This is 76 more students than last year, when preschool enrollment was 140.
“That is quite an increase; we are serving many more preschool students, which I am excited about,” Thompson said.
The school’s playground may not be ready by that time because the installer is behind schedule due to flooding. Installation will start at the end of August or beginning of September, Thompson said.
If this happens, preschoolers will still be able to play in an indoor gym space and spend time outside on nature walks, said Melissa Jantz, Little Panthers principal.
The classroom furniture and materials are on schedule, with most of the office furniture delivered and in storage. They will be delivered to the new facility during the first week of August, Thompson said.
There are currently three empty classrooms that will provide space for 270 students total. For the 2019-20 school year, the vacant rooms be used for special education services, a Sixpence space to meet with families and a parent-child interaction therapy site, Thompson said.
In addition, the Nebraska Department of Education has provided three grants totaling $230,464 for the district’s Early Childhood program expansion, and HeadStart donated $175,000 through a partnership that allows the district to serve 50 students at the preschool, Jantz said. The HeadStart funding renews each year based on the number of students served.
The district also received funding for preschool playground equipment. A Norfolk Area Community Foundation grant offered $5,290 for an accessible merry-go-round, and the Norfolk Public Schools Foundation received $1,965 for tricycles and helmets.
“These will be put to great use as the new playground includes a tricycle path,” Thompson said.
There will also be a preschool open house and ribbon cutting with the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce in August or September.
“The progress of the building is really exciting,” Jantz said. “I really hope the community members come out and take a look and see the great space we have for kids to learn and play.”