By Roger Adkins
WEST UNION, W.Va. — Doddridge County preschool students have room to spread the fun around now that they have an entire school to themselves.
The county’s 70 to 80 preschool students now attend class at the Doddridge County Pre-K Center located at the former Smithburg Grade School, said Superintendent Ora “Rick” Coffman.
The school board and administrators saw an opportunity to move all the county’s preschoolers under one roof, something that is incredibly advantageous but isn’t common in West Virginia, Coffman said.
“We seized the moment, and it just kind of evolved,” he said.
The county’s preschool students were housed in two separate locations, half at Smithburg and half at Doddridge County Elementary School, said Wesley Ezell, director of instructional services.
Family Resource Network had been renting the half of the Smithburg building that wasn’t being used for preschool classes.
“We decided to take it back over, but we helped relocate Family Resource Network to another building centrally located in West Union,” Ezell said.
Maintenance workers knocked down walls to determine if there would be enough room in the school to house the county’s preschool students and meet the space requirement of 35 square feet per child, Ezell said.
“Once we did that, we saw we were going to have plenty of room,” he said.
Crews worked through the summer to get the building ready, Ezell said. The work came down to the wire, and officials weren’t sure if they were going to have the building finished in time, he said.
“We were worried that we may not be ready by the time school started,” Ezell said. “Our whole central office’s administrative staff — including the superintendent and all of our directors — showed up in bare shirtsleeves and helped us paint for an entire day to get it ready.”
The preschool center couldn’t have turned out better, Coffman said.
Julie Todd, a central office secretary, worked in preschool classes before taking a position in the administrative office. She said preschool is just as important for parents as it is for students.
It’s difficult for parents to send their 3- or 4-year-old to preschool at an elementary school where there are 450 students, Coffman said.
“There’s a lot of anxiety and apprehension about sending your kids to school for the first time. Having your preschooler go to a school just for them is about as good as you can hope for as a parent,” Coffman said.
Being surrounded by older students also can be intimidating for preschoolers, Ezell said.
“When you’re a preschooler at a school of 450 kids, the kids you’re going to get to know are going to be your classmates,” he said.
Ezell said the preschool students love having an entire school to themselves. They like being around children their own age.
“It’s like a little community, really,” he said.