Wee Folks Day Training Center (Wee Folks), a nonprofit located at Miner Shopping Center in Hanna, is in danger of closing in the year to come after almost 50 years of helping pre-kindergarteners prepare academically and socially to enter public school systems in Carbon County.
Three Certified Development Association (CDA) educators, plus a Developmental Disability Program employee who serve children with special needs, teach 15 children Monday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The ages for children attending are between 2 and 5 years.
The school is licensed for 40 students. In the years Head Start was a part of Wee Folks, the center was at full capacity. Three years ago, the Head Start program was canceled because not enough students qualified.
Lois Buchanan, member of the Wee Folks board and Beth Kostovny, teacher at Wee Folks for 20 years, both said losing Head Start hurt the school.
Though the school costs about a third of what Saratoga and Rawlins charge for tuition, the quality education provided is comparable, says Buchanan.
Wee Folks is the only child care facility in the northern end of Carbon County School District 2.
“There is no daycare in Medicine Bow or Elk Mountain,” said Buchanan. “We just don’t think everyone knows in those towns, and even Hanna to some degree, what we offer.”
Wee Folks has five board members. All are committed to keeping the school open to help the children in the community said Buchanan.
“We know there are children out in the area we can help prepare for school. Our feeling is whether it is one child or 40 children, the teachers here can make a difference,” said Kostovny.
The center works closely with Hanna’s kindergarten. Activities are age appropriate, so when children get close to kindergarten age, the teachers prepare those students for the transition.
“I have been told by teachers in the public system, they can tell when a child came from. Wee Folks works because the kids are ready to learn,” said Kostovny.
“We do pre-testing at the end of the year for kindergarteners to be, which helps the public school a lot.”
Wee Folks Training Center is looking into utilizing the Hanna Recreation Center next year for occasional field trips.
A day starts out with children picking out their activity and snack from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. says Kostovny, leading into a circle where stories and music are shared until 11 a.m. Then students are divided into age groups and taught different subjects ranging from art to units of discovery.
“Right now in discovery we are doing the ocean. We have the kids put on goggles and we show them pictures of marine life,” explained Kostovny.
Noon is lunch at 1 p.m. some children go home while the students who are left take a nap. The rest of the afternoon can be varied, with physical activities or recognition exercises with numbers and letters says Kostovny.
“It is important to set routines because children need to know what to expect because this builds security and confidence which is so important when going into public education.” said Kostovny.
Parents once a month meet with Wee Folks staff to go over their child’s progress.
Wee Folks does get financial assistance in different ways. The United Way gives a grant, the town of Hanna contributes money and the buildings landlord Tri-Vest, owned by Everett Grubb of Saratoga, has been generous with his help said Buchanan.
“He has been fabulous,” said Kostovny.
“I don’t know what we would have done without him,” said Buchanan.
They acknowledge most grants don’t fit their needs. Often grants available for schools like Wee Folks offer money for toys and playground equipment, of which the school has plenty.
Community raffles, fundraisers, such as one featuring tamales and another selling pies, have been held to supplement funds the school doesn’t get due to budget cuts.
Both Kostovny and Buchanan have praise for the people in the community that have helped the center over the years. They worry new families moving into Carbon County don’t know about Wee Folks and what the school offers.
This makes both Kostovny and Buchanan fear without more students coming in, Wee Folks Training Center could be closed.
“It would be a real loss for the community,” says Kostovny.
Buchanan used an axiom to sum up her feelings about the possible closure, “You never want a drink until the water is gone.”