August 25, 2011 |

Boom time for tykes; preschools overflow

If you’re looking to get your child into a Haines preschool and you haven’t registered yet, you might have to wait. They’re full.

There’s a waiting list at Chilkat Valley Preschool and there may be one at Haines Headstart, which also is fully booked, administrators said this week.

No one’s quite sure whether to call it a baby boomlet or a blip, but Haines School administrators are watching the numbers. "I’m concerned about that. We could have to find extra classroom space," superintendent Michael Byer said this week.

Chilkat Valley Preschool has reached its capacity of 21 students and has two on a waiting list. Students there are sharing cubbies.

"We didn’t have enough cubbies in the cloak room. We had to buy more cubbies and move them into the snack room," said president Sara Chapell. The school for children ages 3-5 had 19 students last year. "About four years ago, we’d have five kids in on some days. Since then we’ve had a steady increase," Chapell said.

The school added a third, part-time teacher last year and a fourth this year. It’s not set up to handle more than 21 students at a time, she said. "You can’t maintain a calm, fun atmosphere once you get over a number of kids. The only way we’d take more kids is to open a second session" but that would require an additional 14 students, she said.

Karen Byrant, teacher-administrator at Haines Headstart, said her program also could switch to a morning and afternoon session, but that would require a total of at least 30 students. "And there’d have to be an indication this is more than a blip."

Headstart has 20 students and has maintained a waiting list the past few years, Bryant said. The federally-funded, four-hour program is for low-income children but opens enrollment after primary requirements are filled. It includes a full breakfast and lunch and serves ages 3-5.

Educators this week tried explaining the surge. "There are a lot of kids in this town. I think part of it is more, younger families are moving to town," Bryant said.

Chapell cited news stories of a "post Sept. 11" baby boomlet attributed to a rise in births as recently as 2009. She said next year’s Haines School kindergarten class may be the biggest in years.