Parents in the Independence School District will have more opportunities for their young students as the district is working on expanding its Early Education program, adding more space for students thanks to state funds.

Dr. Pattie White, director of Head Start, said while the district has had early education programs for “quite awhile,” they are still only serving a small percentage of young students.

“Based on what we’ve looked at in the regional area and KC in general, we’re really only hitting 13 to 15 percent of those that really need these early ed services to catch up to their peers,” she said, explaining that since the area has high poverty rates, with a large number of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunches, being able to increase the number of students served by preparing them for kindergarten, is an asset to the community.

“It’s been the dream to get our sites to be Pre-K through Grade Five elementary sites so we’re more comprehensive…so that it’s more natural feeling to those kids and families.” she said. “Now that we have these additional dollars, it was a prime opportunity to look at sites that maybe only had one Early ed room or didn’t have any.”

Korte Elementary will be one of the sites to receive an early education boost. The facility currently has one room dedicated to early education students, and will be using the funds to prepare a second one. Cassel Park Elementary, which opens later this year, will feature two early education rooms.

Cassel Park will accommodate approximately 500 students, according to Jana Corrie, the district’s director of public relations, and some of these will transfer from Korte Elementary. White said this will help create smaller class sizes, which will help teachers give young students the attention they need to grow, while at the same time allowing more students to join the program.

“We want to get as many of those kids in the door as we can, and this expansion not only allows us to serve more children, but to maintain a reasonable class size with these small friends so we’re really giving as much individual and small group attention as we can to help build those academic, social and emotional skills,” said White.

The district performs screenings for young students year-round, and will have early education registration dates on April 5, April 15, May 6 and May 17 at the district’s central office at 201 N. Forest Ave. Parents can call the dedicated early education phone line to discuss options and opportunities for their children at 816-521-5314.