Building a foundation for self-sufficiency

Devin Marshall- Cloverdale Reveille 
August 10, 2016

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Enrollment openings at new preschool

After losing its location in Healdsburg last year, the 4Cs preschool has set down new roots in Cloverdale. It features a robust program with story time for kids, bilingual Spanish learning, nutritional education and vital life-skill teachings. The new center opened August 1.

The 4Cs (Community Child Care Council) preschool has openings for low-income families to enroll their children. “We are state-subsidized through the California State Preschool Program, so we have the opportunity to serve low-income students,” Executive Director Melanie Dodson said. “Families have to be income-eligible, and they have to be working and going to school. We also have the opportunity to serve tuition-based families as well. And we are a good deal, because we try to only charge our families the same that the state reimburses us.”

Examples of eligible families are: a one to two-person family with a monthly income of $3,283, a three-person family making $3,518 a month, and a four-person family making $3,908 monthly.

However, enrollment is still at 12 children out of the current 30 possible, which Dodson says is a problem. “To be able to sustain it long-term, we really need to completely fill all our slots,” she said. While the school does focus on Cloverdale children, they are able to accept those from Healdsburg and Geyserville as well.

According to Dodson, preschool is an important asset for kids whose parents wish them to succeed in school. “Preschool is the opportunity for (children) to, at a young age, come together and have social opportunities to be together, to be led in group activities, and then introducing curriculum and fun in a playful way,” she said. “So everything from numeracy and literacy to nutrition, and all the things that our kids are going to have, we want them to have that foundation so when they are five and ready to go into kindergarten, that they’ve experienced sitting in circle time, listening to stories, reading books, recognizing letters and numbers. So we’re introducing all of those academic topics in a very play-based and intentional way.”

The children work songs into their routines, including clean-up and lunchtime, and play structures outside give them a chance to exercise. They are also offered dental assessments by a representative from St. Joseph’s Dental Clinic, and they brush their teeth during the day.

“One of the big, important things that we really are working on is supporting the kids to build really strong relationships, with both their peers and with other caring adults,” said Director of Center Programs, Amy McIntyre. “There’s a lot of research that shows that children who have positive relationships with their preschool teacher do better once they enter the regular school system. They’re more willing and able to create relationships with their teachers, and have better control. They’re just more ready to be absorbing information.”

The 4Cs preschool serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks to all children. “Some of our families have food insecurities at home, so they’re getting a lot of their nutrition here,” Dodson said. “We’re always introducing new vegetables, and new fruits, and hopefully eventually we’ll have a garden … the children eat in what we call ‘family style,’ so things are served at the table and the children learn how to pour their own drinks and serve their own meals for themselves. Everything we’re doing is building that foundation for them to have self-sufficiency once they go on to kindergarten.” In addition, a teacher sits at every table to engage in a dialogue with the children about their food, so they can build descriptive vocabularies.

“Oftentimes, once they get the habits here at preschool, they’ll go home to mom and yell ‘Mom, we didn’t brush our teeth, we need to.’” Dodson said. “Or ‘Mom, I ate this today, mom I love peas.’ Peer pressure is never a bad thing when it comes to healthy eating.”

Community Relations Director Tiffani Montgomery began work the same day that the preschool center opened. “I’m looking forward to touring all of our amazing preschools,” she said. “4Cs has been around for 44 years, so their reputation is very well-received in the community. And I think that it’s really great about building communities where you set up preschools all across the county, and so I think this is going to be a great opportunity for Cloverdale to build the community as well as house this new site for them.”

4Cs began a lease with E Center on July 1, the owners of the Migrant Head Start building, thus beginning a partnership between them and the Cloverdale Unified School District. “The district has been very supportive in trying to get the word out to the families, they haven’t opened school yet but they’ll be doing some additional,” Dodson said. “We really have felt very welcomed into the community, which has been really wonderful.”

After starting the lease, the preschool staff set up the building, including bringing all of the materials, painting, getting clearance from the fire marshal and obtaining  a license through Community Care. “The fire department has been so helpful and supportive,” McIntyre said. “They really were just great.”

All of the staff, except for the site supervisor, grew up in and live in Cloverdale.

“We want families to come and drop in,” McIntyre said. “We have an open-door policy, so any time they can come and drop in and see our program, meet our staff, get a tour, pick up a packet. That’s for both tuition-based as well as families who think they might be eligible for free state preschool.”

The school is located at 330 N. Washington Street, behind the Migrant Head Start daycare center. Its current operating hours are 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. every day except for holidays and certain cleaning days, though they will extend until 6 for parents who commute. Those interested in signing up can either visit in-person to pick up an application, or call Sandra Valencia at 522-1413, ext. 146.