Liam Hixon (left) and Suzanne Thompson look on as Zev Kaunitiz dumps out a bin of toy animals during the school day. The students are among the 86 who are in the preschool program at Circleville Elementary.

Steven Collins/Senior Reporter

CIRCLEVILLE— Circleville Elementary School has received a five-star rating for preschool in the State of Ohio’s Step Up to Quality program, joining the other Pickaway County Schools among its ranks.

According to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Step Up to Quality is a quality rating and improvement system administered by ODE and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. It’s graded one to five stars, and the program recognizes and promotes learning and development programs that exceed licensing regulations.

Jill Sims, preschool director and Circleville Elementary School assistant principal, said the high rating is a credit to the staff who work hard to put their program to work every day.

“It takes a strong staff to carry out a quality program with the demands of schools today, and I am proud of the program our staff is able to provide for Circleville area students,” Sims said. “We are a community here [in Circleville] and we are raising a community of Tigers, and a program such as this is one I want my own child to be involved in. I think we offer a lot of quality programs here in the county, but I am really proud of the community feel we have here on campus as evidenced by this rating.”

The district’s elementary school will keep the designation for the next three years while submitting the yearly paperwork to the Ohio Department of Education, Sims said.

“Every program that is licensed through ODE has to go through this Step Up to Quality process,” she said. “There are different requirements to be a four-star and a five-star, and what they’re saying is, you should be able to go to a daycare center that’s Step Up rated and a public school pre-school and the program should be the same, so you get a consistent quality throughout.”

“I’ll have to submit an annual report for the next three years and in three years we’ll go through this process again,” she said.

The program is currently in its fourth year of operation at the new Circleville Elementary School with 86 students enrolled as of Nov. 1. Sims said part of what made the rating happen was the partnership Circleville Elementary has with Head Start.

“We have a great partnership with them and they’ve been a huge help in this process,” Sims said. “They set up a parent meeting for [the children] to transition when they’re coming to kindergarten. The parents come take a tour of the building, the students come take a tour of the building. Head Start was a huge piece in getting this all together and their partnership is very valuable.”

Sims said many of the pieces involved in being a five-star program are things like transitioning kids into and out of the preschool program, the process to get students further support if they need, curriculum, and assessments of students.

“It’s, how do you transition students into your program and then out of your program into kindergarten?” she said. “It’s also your assessment and referral pieces, so how do you catch those students who need sent on for further testing or interventions? It’s basically, you process that, you have all of it in place.”

Sims said Circleville Elementary is going from 4-star to 5-star and anyone in the area can go to the Ohio Department of Education’s website and search surrounding programs to see their rating.

“It helps parents when they’re choosing a preschool,” she said. “You can look and see what programs are in the area, or if you work in Columbus, you can type in where you’re at and it’ll tell you the rated programs. A five here should look like a five somewhere else. It helps maintain that fidelity and consistencies in the programs.”

Sims noted Circleville joining the ranks of five-star programs is a great benefit to the community.

“We’re not the only five-star in the county and I think that’s a great benefit to the community to know they can pick any of these centers in our community and know their children are getting quality care,” she said. “We have a lot of positives going on in our county for early learning.”

All the work is for the students and making sure the students get what they need from pre-kindergarten.

“I think, overall, the students know they’re part of a five-star program in terms of what we do,” she said. “They look forward to coming here and it’s more of a feeling they’re all excited to be here at school. To me, that’s more important than any rating. That’s where the kids benefit; it’s a good place to be.”

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