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Eugene- Walking into North Eugene High, it looks like any other high school. Posters on the walls, squeaking shoes in the halls and the sounds of teenagers at every turn. Except it’s not like any other high school. NEHS not only opens its doors to teenagers, but to preschoolers as well. North has long been running a supervised learning center for preschool and high school students (over 30yrs in service). Down a long hallway filled with classrooms, the preschool entrance looks just like any other classroom. That is, until you enter. The room is large with high ceilings, filled with books, toys, tables to eat and play at and of course kids…..big and small.

Students in this program are involved in a series of classes that teach child development theory and guidance skills. This hands on learning experience is invaluable to the high school students, who earn college credit….and the parents whose children attend the preschool (around 30 kids a each term). With the recent budget issues that 4J is facing (a $30 Million dollar gap in budget), the decision was made to eliminate this long running program in its entirety (which was overturned…but more on that later). Not only affecting this unique program and its students, but the pint size students and their parents that rely on it. This controversial decision by the powers that be at North, was made with little input from the programs director, Kelly Hindrichs or the students that earn college credit from it. 4J officials justified their initial decision, stating that cutting the program would save $100,000 per year.

Students involved in the program not only rely on it for college credit, but are appreciative of the valuable hands-on experience they gain in the process. So much so, that students made their concerns clear and their voices heard when the decision was made to cut the program. But they weren’t the only ones with concerns and wanting a say. A community meeting was held on April 13th at North Eugene High School to discuss the decision to close the program, giving an opportunity…to those who wanted it, to voice their concerns further. Thanks to this meeting, along with letter writing campaigns, petitions, Facebook postings and phone calls……the decision to end the NEHS Preschool and Child Development Program was overturned.

The decision to not cancel the Child Development program was good news for students, parents and the program’s director. “We have seen an unbelievable array of involvement from an extremely wide variety of people. High school students, and their parents, Preschool parents, community members and NEHS staff” Kelly Hindrichs, the programs director stated. “Because of everyone’s efforts, we will continue to offer learning opportunities to families, children, and high school students.” This is a unique and valuable program for high school students, and hopefully one that will be around for a long time. The NEHS Preschool is now accepting applications for the 2011-2012 school year. If you are interested in enrolling your child in the preschool, or just want more information on the program itself…..contact North Eugene High School and ask for Kelly Hindrichs (541-790-4564).  She will be more than happy to tell you all about it.

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