Many Columbia County parents of 3- and 4-year-olds turn their attention each spring to the lottery for prekindergarten slots for the next school year.
The school system also provides pre-K instruction to children with special needs.
Pre-K classes for eligible special-needs 4-year-olds selected in the lottery are available at Grovetown, Blue Ridge, Greenbrier, Bel Air, River Ridge and Martinez elementary schools.
The system also provides special education for 3- and 4-year-olds in other locations.
"We serve students in the day cares. We serve students in the home setting," said Lisa Hill, the school system's director of special services. "We try to serve them in their natural environment, especially the 3-year-olds."
Special-needs pupils include those who have autism, severe auditory or visual impairments, severe intellectual or physical impairments, or other health problems that result in physical limitations and behavioral disorders.
The pre-K program includes speech, occupational and physical therapies, Hill said.
She also said the program is expanded as needed.
For instance, Hill said, a second half-day program was added at Greenbrier Elementary this year.
In addition, the school system implemented a new curriculum for its pre-K pupils this year.
"The focus is on language development, and we have seen so much growth in our students in our pre-K program," she said.
The response-to-intervention program that was mandated in the schools this year to determine special education eligibility has been integrated into the pre-K special needs evaluations as well.
This approach, in which special education eligibility is determined by classroom evaluations over a 12-week period instead of by test scores, is altered for children with special needs.
Hill said parents are provided with plans when their child is screened for special-needs eligibility.
School personnel follow up on the effectiveness of these strategies when parents get the results of their child's screening.
The school system offers child screenings twice each month at various locations, including Patriots Park and area churches.
The process includes evaluation of social and emotional development, fine and gross motor skills, adaptive behavior, cognitive development and communication skills.
Children also undergo vision and hearing tests.
Special education screenings are performed by a pre-K teacher, a speech language pathologist, an occupational therapist and a nurse.
A school psychologist sometimes is included in the screening process.
To set up a screening, call Barbara Wilson at (706) 541-2700.
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