Preschool: It's not about snacks and naps, and learning shapes and colors,

"Quality preschool is not merely day care," said Linda Snyder, a preschool teacher at North Casper Elementary.

"Preschool is the first formal educational experience of our community's youngest learners, and it encompasses a great deal," Snyder told the Natrona County School District's board of trustees during the public comment period Monday.

Snyder, and dozens of other staff, parents and students showed their support by wearing their school's bright blue T-shirts emblazoned with the "cougars" school mascot.

They asked the board either in comments or by letters to fund a building for preschool education at the new north Casper elementary school under construction to be known as as Lincoln Elementary.

The need is especially great in north Casper, Snyder said.

"The varieties of circumstances are numerous, but the academic and social and emotional needs are great, she said. "Several of my students come to my school every year with very limited skills, especially with regard to background knowledge and basic vocabulary."

Some even cannot verbalize objects they see in the classroom or pictures they see in books, she said.

Likewise, the number of students learning English has increased dramatically at the preschool, Snyder said.

She asked what will happen to these students in a few years when Lincoln Elementary reaches full capacity with kindergarten through fifth grade students. The school will need preschool classrooms, she said.

Snyder acknowledged the board's efforts, especially to increase the graduation rates at the high schools, she said. "But I ask you and I plead with you that you do not forget our youngest learners in our community."

After their presentations, school board Chairman Dave Applegate said trustees normally take comments under advisement, but this issue merited a response.

"We haven't made any decisions about preschools in north Casper," Applegate said. "For many of us trustees, the need for these rooms and what the state does and doesn't fund is fairly new information."

No decision has been made, and the teachers and parents' remarks are timely, he said.

"I appreciate the testimony and passions you brought forth," Applegate said. "I will say that the board, in the time that I've been on it, often has taken action because of that type of passion and interest around an issue."