A Model of Inclusion and Collaboration
Oak Ridge Schools’ Preschool has been characterized as a tapestry of learning and “a miniature United Nations.” Based on the principles of inclusion and collaboration, the public school system in Oak Ridge, Tennessee blends 200 three and four year old Head Start, Title I, IDEA-B, Voluntary Pre-K, and non-English speaking students representing 5-7 nationalities in twelve classrooms. Eleven classrooms are located in the Oak Ridge Schools’ Administration Building, making it one of the largest preschools in the southeast, with the twelth class located at Woodland Elementary. The preschool began serving preschoolers at risk for learning in 1967, using Title I monies to serve 60 preschoolers for 2 half day sessions per day and sponsoring a Head Start summer program. In 1970, the Title I and Head Start programs were merged and sixty children were served in a full-day program. Today, the program meets the high performance standards of each of the sponsoring/funding agencies and all students have access to family services, health and dental assistance, behavioral and mental health services.
The purpose of the Oak Ridge Preschool program is to provide early intervention for children who are considered at risk for learning and to enable families to be active partners in the educational process of their child(ren). Based on the belief that all children are ready to learn from the time of birth, the preschool program strives to provide opportunities for children that will allow them to enter kindergarten with background knowledge and skills necessary for active participation in learning. Program model curriculum decisions are made based on our mission and vision and are informed by understandings of child development, family dynamics, and the impact of our unique environmental circumstances. We believe that our program is driven by what the children need to know, not by what we want to teach.