News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

SPRD seeks more staff for preschool

The rooms at Sisters Park and Recreation District (SPRD) preschool are cheerfully bright, with mini tables and chairs for the pint-sized students. Everywhere is evidence of the fun, yet important, learning and creating that takes place in these rooms every weekday. The only thing missing? Two and a half more teachers.

Valerie Selig and Carissa Gascon, both well-qualified, experienced, and dedicated teachers who love their jobs, are each responsible for up to 15-18 little ones. Normally, there would be two teachers in each class as well as a half-time person to cover teacher breaks and provide an extra set of hands, and some volunteers.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, these times are anything but normal. Despite recruiting, SPRD has been unable to hire the two needed teachers. They are just in the process of trying to reinstitute a program involving parent volunteers.

SPRD is renting the former Sisters Christian Academy building from Sisters Community Church to house their age 3-4 and age 4-5 preschool classes. This is the second year in the former private school, which is perfect for the preschool. Both rooms open right into the gymnasium, and there is a well-equipped playground right outside where deer wander through on occasion. The facility is secure, with locked doors and doorbells to ring for entrance into the classroom. SPRD rents the building from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., five days a week, so it is available for use by other groups in the community at other times.

According to Gascon, “The church has been nothing but super supportive. They are amazing! They’re great about taking care of any problems, even when they aren’t the church’s responsibility.”

The preschool program is an important community asset. Selig’s class (3- and 4- year-olds) has been full since classes began and Gascon’s 4-5 class could take four or five more children if they were fully staffed. Prior to COVID, there was usually a waiting list of 11-14 children.

Like so many other businesses, SPRD is having difficulty even getting people to apply or interview for the teaching positions, despite their willingness to be flexible with hours. Two people could job share a position, one working in the morning, the other in the afternoon, or each only working certain days.

Flexibility is also evident in the program offerings. Children must attend a minimum of three days a week, but the days can be structured to meet parents’ needs. Children arrive between 8 and 8:45 a.m. Some do mornings only, going home at 12:15 p.m. before lunch. Some are there until 3 p.m., and some spend an entire day, leaving by 5:30 p.m.

The daily schedule is full of fun activities and crafts, circle time, recess, curriculum time, lunch, and rest/quiet time. After 3 p.m., the time is unstructured due to a variety of pickup times by parents. That time is free choice, with teachers catering to what the children need or would like to do.

The walls of both classrooms are covered with examples of the fun activities the children do that also teach them social skills, awareness of their environment, and the basics that prepare them to enter kindergarten. In the “Creation Station” are all the supplies they need to do “their work.” The rooms are colorful, clean, inviting, and well-organized.

The children in both classes are fortunate to have such experienced, happy, and loving teachers.

“They pay us to do this!” declared Gascon with a big smile. Both teachers agreed that they are happy to come to work in such a fun environment.

To apply for a teaching position or to volunteer in the preschool program, call SPRD at 541-549-2091 or email SPRD executive director Jennifer Holland at [email protected]


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