Great Start Readiness Program grows in Roseville Community Schools

By: Maria Allard | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published November 7, 2023

 Playing in the sandbox is a favorite activity of the students in the Great Start Readiness Program at Green Elementary School in Roseville. The program helps 4-year-olds get ready for kindergarten.

Playing in the sandbox is a favorite activity of the students in the Great Start Readiness Program at Green Elementary School in Roseville. The program helps 4-year-olds get ready for kindergarten.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


ROSEVILLE — When Roseville Community Schools Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Peter Hedemark visited his wife Susan Hedemark’s preschool classroom Oct. 27 at Green Elementary, several students were eager to show him the lesson they were working on.

The students had been practicing how to write their first names and shared their finished work with Hedemark. Then it was time to gather on the rug to learn about the letter “R” with lead teacher Susan Hedemark and associate teacher Kelly Ford.

In another classroom with lead teacher Chelsi VanEtten, the students discussed the weather conditions of the day as associate teacher Ashley Allison prepared breakfast. They also paid attention as VanEtten read the book “The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Firetruck.” The story was to help them prepare to meet members of the Roseville Fire Department, who were scheduled to visit the school that day to talk about fire safety.

“We have to make sure our listening ears are on, raise our hands and talk one at a time,” VanEtten reminded them.

This fall, RCS expanded its Great Start Readiness Program by increasing it from four to five full days per week. School officials also provide busing for students who live in the district. The Great Start Readiness Program is Michigan’s state-funded preschool for 4-year-old children. Families qualify for the free preschool program based on annual income guidelines.

The program is designed to teach children how to be good students before they attend kindergarten. The children practice how to listen and follow directions, take turns, build self-esteem and pay attention. The GSRP classes follow a structured course called Creative Curriculum where independent learning and learning in groups are practiced. The activities are geared toward the student’s skill level.

The curriculum is designed to heighten the students’ confidence as they learn through play, hands-on activities and problem-solving. The research-based approach incorporates language, literacy and mathematics on a daily basis. Gross motor and fine motor skills are stressed, as are social skills.

In a district press release, Curriculum & Instruction Assistant Superintendent Dave Rice said that the increase to five days a week from the previous four days was driven from the state level to increase class time.

“We have been observing the differences in kindergarten preparedness for years and it is always consistent. GSRP students from the previous year are substantially ahead of most other students in socialization, behavioral norms, and play/interaction with other students,” he said. “We may not have a defined metric to measure all of the factors, but student performance and educator observation over the years has been consistent.”

There are four RCS preschool classes at Green, three at Fountain Elementary and two at Kment Elementary. Students in the program must attend all five days; parents can’t just enroll their children part of the time. Currently, there are 144 students in the district’s GSRP. Most of the students are Roseville residents, with a small percentage attending from out of the district.

Peter Hedemark said the state of Michigan used to fund the preschool program with less per pupil funding than the K-12 students. However, because of the large focus on early childhood education, that is changing.    

Presently, the school district receives $9,608 in per pupil funding for K-12 students. The same amount is being distributed to preschool students, although Hedemark said the plan is for the state to increase the early childhood education funding by $200 for each student.

On average, a K-12 classroom has 25 to 30 students with one teacher. However, a preschool classroom generally includes a lead teacher, an associate teacher and an aide to cover both teachers when they are on lunch.

One of the newest teachers to come into the program at RCS is Eric Bishop. The educator has taught at the elementary, middle school and high school levels, but feels most at home in the preschool environment.

“I get a chance to tap into my inner child. Children can tell if an adult is good people. They sense my energy. Men are so needed at all levels of education,” he said. “The American household is changing. You see less fathers and more single mother homes. There is less male interaction.”

For a while, RCS officials had a difficult time finding candidates to fill the open teaching positions in the district. However, they are always looking for aides and substitute aides.