Pre-K programs could soon be multiplying in Wells County

November 13th, 2017

By Matthew LeBlanc for The News-Banner | Indiana Economic Digest

After years of being largely without state-registered pre-K programs, Wells County is poised to see an influx of high quality preschools.

The state lists just six Wells County preschools as part of its Paths to Quality rating system, which rates early childhood learning programs from Level 1 to Level 4, depending on curriculum and the types of facilities.

Of those, four are rated Level 1 — the lowest rating — and none rank higher than Level 2.

That’s set to soon change, as a preschool program at Bluffton-Harrison Elementary School is nearing designation as a Level 3 program. A preschool program at the Caylor-Nickel Foundation Family YMCA could also reach Level 3 status within a few weeks.

“Things are moving,” said Pamela Beckford, who runs the United Way of Wells County and has pushed for more local options for child care and early childhood education.

“It does add another level of confidence that you’re sending your child to a quality child care.”

Paths to Quality bases its ratings on facilities and learning opportunities for children. Level 1, for example, signifies the facility meets health and safety needs. Levels 3 and 4 focus on a planned curriculum and child development.

Julie Meitzler, the principal at BHES, began work to secure a Level 3 rating last year. Most paperwork and inspections are complete, she said, and a state official is scheduled to visit the school next week. 

The rating could come soon after that.

“It’s an interesting process,” Meitzler said. “I’m anxious.”

Jon Jenkins, the former executive director of the local YMCA said he also expects the facility to be awarded a Level 3 rating soon.

BHES is currently rated a Level 1 facility, while the YMCA is a Level 2, according to the state.

More state-rated pre-K programs could also be on the way.

Northern Wells Community Schools operates preschools at Lancaster Central and Ossian elementary schools, and Superintendent Scott Mills said efforts are underway to secure ratings at both locations. Those could be in place next year.

Two church-based preschools — at Hope Missionary Church and New Life Christian School — also are seeking ratings under Paths to Quality.