A new preschool program at Klukwan School has attracted between five and seven students and is a “win-win” for the Chatham School District, superintendent Bernie Grieve said this week.

Students attend three hours per day, Tuesday through Thursday.

Chatham hired full-time teacher Ean McCormick to lead the program two weeks ago. McCormick’s responsibilities include teaching students through second grade.

“When we were hiring we went looking for a certified teacher to help with other grades as well. We wanted a teacher who could do both,” Grieve said.

The program in Klukwan is a pilot program for Chatham, following an informal arrangement last year that served two or three preschoolers.

“I think it’s the wave of the future,” Grieve said. How a preschool arrangement works varies from district to district depending on whether an independent preschool is available, he said.

In Gustavus, Chatham leases an annex building on school grounds to an independent preschool that has 13 students. Preschool students have access to the public school’s facilities. “There’s really no issue if they want to use the gym or anything else,” Grieve said.

The Klukwan preschool, open to students ages 3-5, was advocated by teachers, parents, the school’s advisory committee and the district’s special education director, he said. “Being able to provide that, for the parents it was a big plus,” Grieve said.

Mosquito Lake parent Edie Granger said the program works pretty well for her four-year-old daughter Sapphire, who also attended last year, when the program was unstructured and more akin to day-care.

“It’s nice to get her in there with the other kids. They get to play together in the gym and rub elbows with the bigger kids at snack time and play time,” Granger said. She said she also appreciates the school’s hot lunches and family atmosphere. Granger also has a daughter in sixth grade at the school.

According to Grieve, having younger students in the school eases the transition to kindergarten, because preschoolers are taught social and emotional skills and other skills they’ll need.

For the district, bringing preschool students into the school means increasing the likelihood those students will attend Klukwan in subsequent years, allaying fears that total school enrollment will drop below 10, jeopardizing substantial state funding.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to worry from year to year. We’ll have enough students to be able to keep the school open,” Grieve said.