This archived article was written by: Morgan Verdi
The preschool has been on campus since the early 1980s and housed in the West Instructional Building. Funded by preschool tuition and indirect resources, the preschool serves as a lab for college students who are majoring in early childhood education. It is also used as a public relations tool to educate future USU Eastern students. USU Eastern’s funding is limited to maintenance and support services.
Two sessions are offered, three days a week. The morning session is for 3 year olds and the afternoon session is for 4 to 5 year olds.
The program is similar to preschools at Dixie State University, Southern Utah University, Snow, Utah Valley University, Brigham Young University, Westminster, Salt Lake Community College, the University of Utah, Weber State University, Utah State University and three of its regional campuses.
Philosophically, the curriculum allows children to explore in a safe environment, gives opportunities not afforded at home and provides hands-on experience for future learning. “It’s the primary connections, which research shows, are so critical to shaping the minds of preschoolers as successful future learners,” associate education professor Anne Mackiewicz, said.
USU Eastern’s program is based on best researched practices. “In the state of Utah anyone can open a preschool,” she said. “All you need is to acquire a business license. There are no background checks, CPR training, food handler’s permit, or child development education. Preschools can have an unlimited number of students without anyone checking on how many adults are present to teach and monitor the children. There is simply no oversight of preschool owners and that is something parents should be aware of. I encourage all parents to ask about these issues when enrolling their child in a program.”
USU Eastern’s preschool teacher has an early childhood degree. The program teaches college students a complete curriculum of early childhood education. When a college student graduates from the program, they will have earned an associate of applied science degree (AAS) with an emphasis in child development.
As the enrollment of the college dropped this past decade, so did students majoring in early childhood education. Two to three students enroll each year, but more are needed if the program is to remain viable.
If the college chooses to keep the program, Mackiewicz believes a focused effort to recruit students would support a viable program. If the AAS is eliminated, available funding along with the preschool tuition could cover the cost of keeping the preschool independent of the degree program. The space the preschool occupies is not currently needed for any other campus program.
Dr. Jason Olsen, an English professor at USU Eastern and his wife Chapel Taylor-Olsen have their daughter in the preschool. He said, “My daughter talks about preschool almost everyday. She would say, ‘I›m so excited to go to preschool’ in the middle of summer. Our preschool is important for my wife and me because it›s so unique in our region. It follows a pedagogically sound play-based philosophy that other preschools in our area don›t follow. If our preschool closes, we just aren›t comfortable taking our daughter to another preschool that doesn›t follow this philosophy. So then preschool for her is done. Finished. Thinking of that absolutely breaks my heart.”