Three & Four Year Olds In Mississippi Public Schools?

Four-year olds at Kinder Kampus in Biloxi are getting their minds in shape for Kindergarten.

"It is a pre-planned curriculum for the teachers that will introduce the children to their colors, their numbers, and shapes, as well as handwriting skills," director Jackie Begley said.

But her pre-school could be getting some competition a mile up the road. A bill would allow the state Department of Education to seek funding to start a voluntary pre-K program in public schools. That's something North Bay Elementary is already designed to do.

Principal Dr. Lori Pitrie said "Dr. Larry Drawdy had the foresight in the planning and the development of the architecture plans for North Bay, to include a pod that would meet the state specifications for Pre-K and K education".

For instance, the classrooms in the pod are bigger, and bathrooms are built inside each classroom. The principal welcomes the possibility of having pre-schoolers on campus.

"I think it's a great idea. The earlier you can intervene with students as far as learning disabilities, the better. It would be wonderful if our students were here before Kindergarten."

But the director of Kinder Kampus doesn't think 3-and-4 year olds belong in a public school setting.

"3-year olds with 6th graders, is just not a good thing. They're not ready academically, physically, or developmentally. How will they deal with the issues of separation anxieties? How will they deal with the issue of potty training, because some of them still have accidents?"

Begley also worries about losing business, if parents pull their kids out of day care and enroll them in public school.

"It would affect my job and the job of my staff members because we depend on our salaries. We wouldn't have that because we wouldn't be able to support the needs of the center with the number of children".

Supporters of the bill say it should not compete with Head Start, which is an early childhood program for low-income families. The bill goes back to the Senate for more debate.