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"Preschool Palooza" draws CCSD's youngest students for a community welcome

Student at Preschool Palooza on Aug. 9.Emily and John Lile faced a mix of excitement, trepidation and curiosity as they reported to Eastridge Elementary School on Aug. 9.

The couple arrived at the Eastridge campus with their two kids, Zander and Zanda, for “Preschool Palooza,” a gathering designed to prepare the Cherry Creek School District’s youngest incoming students and their families for the upcoming year. The event featured a carnival-like atmosphere, with teachers and staff from CCSD’s 23 preschool sites manning game booths and information tents. What’s more, the event featured important health resources for families, including vision and dental clinics, as well as COVID-19 vaccination booths manned by medical professionals from STRIDE Community Health Center.

For the Liles, the get-together represented an important milestone on the path to preschool at the Timberline Elementary facility for the family’s oldest child, four-year-old Zander.

“We are super excited for the new school year,” said Emily Lile. “We wanted to come today to check things out. I’m really excited, and we’re all ready to go to school, even though as parents we’re feeling some of the mixed emotions.”

According to Stacey Peoples, CCSD’s Director of Early Childhood Education, the purpose of the second Preschool Palooza event was to help allay any of the anxiety or stress that new parents face as their students begin their academic path. Sending a child to preschool for the first time can be stressful in any year, but the past 18 months have offered new and different kinds of hurdles for parents navigating their children’s early education.

The event was designed as a one-stop shop to answer questions, offer resources and make the transition to preschool easier for students, parents and families alike. The district offers preschool services in 80 classrooms at 23 sites across the district’s 108 square miles.

“This is the beginning of an incredible school year for our preschool students in Cherry Creek Schools. We have between 1,500 and 2,000 3- and 4-year-olds this year. This is the start of it all,” Peoples said. “They get to check in with their teachers at each of the tents, they get to play games and they get to interact.”

Those school-specific tents found a complement in roving mascots, a photo booth and food trucks, all of which lent to the celebratory atmosphere. What’s more, students and parents alike had the chance to ensure that they kicked off the school year in a safe and healthy way – young ones had the chance to check their teeth and vision, while older attendees had the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine through STRIDE Community Health Center representatives.

It’s not the first or the last time that STRIDE has partnered with the district. CCSD has been working with STRIDE to establish two standalone, school-based health centers at Horizon Community Middle School and at the Overland High/Prairie Middle School campus that are set to open in 2022. These facilities will offer the community primary care clinics that can provide a variety of age-appropriate services, including mental and behavioral care, dental care, vision care and referrals, nutritional counseling, health education, acute care with providers and other services.Altitude Elementary staff at Preschool Palooza on Aug. 9.

According to Peoples, the mix of fun, facts and health-based resources at this year’s Preschool Palooza was designed to provide the district’s youngest students with a solid foundation as they kick off their journey through CCSD.

“Preschool is so vitally important. We work on social/emotional skills; we build the foundations of literacy and learning,” Peoples said. “To come to an event like this – to meet teachers and peers and for parents to come – it’s bringing the community of Cherry Creek Schools together in one place.”

-- Posted 8/9/21 at 2 PM