Diocesan News

Ashland Parish Begins New Preschool Oct. 25

ASHLAND (SNR) - St. Mary Preschool in Ashland began Oct. 25.

While St. Mary Parish offers a vacation Bible school every summer, and a monthly pre-kindergarten Bible class, this is an entirely new endeavor.

The preschool class is conducted in the parish education center, which is regularly used to educate the parish’s K-8 students during the school year.  Both the summer school and the Wednesday night CCD classes during the school year have about 60 students who regularly attend.

Father Gary Coulter, pastor at St. Mary in Ashland and St. Joseph in Greenwood, explained how this undertaking began when he learned from several parents that they didn’t have many options for preschool in Ashland/Greenwood.  Due to the closing of two Ashland preschools this spring, there are only three preschools in operation in Ashland to assist the approximately 70 children that enter kindergarten each year.

After surveying parishioners and learning that there was a strong interest in a faith-based preschool, Fatherr Coulter realized: "a preschool is a good fit with our mission, providing both a service to our parents and the community, working to spread the Gospel, and making use of an already existing building that usually sits empty during the day."

The process to begin a new preschool involved a number of steps, including building modifications to meet the fire code, and certification with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.  With the completion of these stages, the building and certification would allow for up to 18 students at any one time, provided there is sufficient staffing.  Then they just need a teacher.

After several applicants showed interest, St. Mary Church hired Sara Martin, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Lincoln as a teacher. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from UNL, is currently teaching at Lux Center for the Arts in Lincoln, and works with the before and after school programs at School District 145 (Eagle).

Sara is the mother of three young children and said she is very excited at the possibility this position affords her, to work part-time and remain involved in the lives of her children.

Tanya Keith, a parishioner of St. Mary Church, has been assisting Father Coulter and had the opportunity to meet Sara.

"I really liked Sara," she said. "She seems so warm and friendly and I am excited at the possibility to have her teach Emma. She has a lot of great ideas and seems very knowledgeable."

A final step that delayed the preschool opening was the need to change the zoning law in Ashland to include preschools in the special usage zoning for the Downtown/Commercial district in Ashland, where the Church and Education Center are located.  Unlike the surrounding communities, such as Waverly and Gretna, Ashland did not have childcare and preschool as one of the downtown zoning usages. Approval was granted and the preschool began Oct. 25.

Father Coulter said St. Mary Preschool offers a program with a strong educational curriculum that thoroughly prepares children for kindergarten as well as enriches the children’s love for Jesus and offers a foundation for their Christian faith.  All children are invited to attend regardless of their faith, and parents are welcome to view the preschool’s curriculum at any time. An open house was held Oct. 11 for the public to have the chance to see the building, meet the teacher, register for classes, and share in cookies and fellowship.

St. Mary Preschool offers both morning and afternoon classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with the mornings geared for 3- and 4-year-olds. The afternoon class is adapted for 4- and 5-year-olds planning to enter kindergarten the following year.

For further information or to add a child’s name to a registration list, please call Father Coulter at 402-944-3554 or Tanya Keith at 402-944-2167, or visit home.windstream.net/stmaryashland/preschool.

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