Social learning together in Bremerton — Jessie Kinlow at View Ridge is an all-inclusive preschool

Kids  participate in a finger play activity that Rayna Patison (not pictured) leads at View Ridge and Jessie Kinlow School House in Bremerton last Thursday. The preschool is for all children ages 3 to 5 and currently has open spots.  - Kristin Okinaka
Kids participate in a finger play activity that Rayna Patison (not pictured) leads at View Ridge and Jessie Kinlow School House in Bremerton last Thursday. The preschool is for all children ages 3 to 5 and currently has open spots.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka

They sit next to each other and read picture books. They paint together. They play outside together.

Nestled in a back double-unit portable of View Ridge Elementary School in Bremerton, is the View Ridge and Jessie Kinlow School House, a new preschool program for children ages 3 to 5.

And, the age range is really the only prerequisite for parents to enroll their children. Those with developmental delays or anything ranging from autism to speech delays are fully included into the program at Jessie Kinlow.

“It’s all kind of a blended model,” said Rachel Axtelle, special education teacher at the preschool.

The morning program runs from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and the afternoon program from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Mondays,Tuesdays and Thursdays year-round, observing state holidays. Beginning in February, another morning program will be added on Wednesdays, said director Linda King.

In addition to children of any learning or social development status being able to attend Jessie Kinlow, children do not have to reside within the Bremerton School District — they can come from anywhere in Kitsap County, said King.

New this school year, children do not have to be from a low-income family to attend the school. The preschool program began at View Ridge in 2006 in conjunction with Head Start and families had to be low-income in order to send children to the preschool.

Another change after disassociating with Head Start allows the program to incorporate holiday-related activities to the curriculum. Before where the observation of Halloween or Valentine’s Day had to be ignored, now they can discuss them — which in October meant trick-or-treating around the elementary school.

Regardless of the socio-economic class the children come from or whether they have delayed social or developmental skills, teaching them to work together from a young age is essential. The teachers said it helps expose them to empathy and compassion.

“Kids don’t get prejudices until they are older and get exposed,” said King. “They play well together here.”

A classroom routine is followed daily to keep consistency for the children. The morning always begins with the flag salute followed by singing the “hello song,” finger play and addressing the day’s date on a poster calendar. Children who may need visual support will have an envelope with images on it for accompaniment while the teacher leads an activity.

Having the same routine and sticking to it is important for all kids because it helps with transitioning to different activities, as well as allowing them to know what to expect in their day.

“Some don’t have that structure at home,” Axtelle added.

Axtelle is one of three special education teachers from the Bremerton School District who works at Jessie Kinlow. This year, she is leading a monthly family support group for those who have preschool children with autism. Autistic children are able to take part in an extended day program that goes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., up to four days a week. The day includes repeated trials and practices of various activities.

Jessie Kinlow can accommodate 20 children in each the morning and afternoon program and, King said, there are open spots. The school district partners with the private community preschool. An additional speech therapist and occupational therapist come in to work with children one-on-one as needed.

Rayna Patison is the teacher employed by Jessie Kinlow and began working with the program in September. It’s been a learning experience working with the different children, she said of the full inclusion environment where the children can learn from one another.

“And that’s what this is all for,” she said. “Because they are like everybody else. They just learn a little bit differently.”

The Jessie Kinlow Child Care and Learning Center is located on Franklin Avenue in Bremerton and along with its own preschool, it has a summer program for children ages 5 to 12.

School’s Out Washington awarded Jessie Kinlow a $1,500 grant to go toward the summer program. It will go toward visiting a King Tut exhibit at the science center in Seattle as well as purchasing new chairs.

Other than Jessie Kinlow at View Ridge, three other elementary schools in the Bremerton School District have preschool programs. Crown Hill and Naval Avenue both have Head Start programs and West Hills has a private Montessori program.

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