Los Alamos Public Schools Expands PreK Program For 2021-2022

LAPS PreK teacher Tiffany Ziegler gets class started on the first day of school at Chamisa Elementary School in White Rock. Photo Courtesy LAPS


Los Alamos Public Schools has expanded PreSchool for the 2021-22 school year to include programs at four elementary schools. The district is now able to provide PreK to 137 four-year-olds. “We are excited to be able to offer this program to more children this year,” said Interim Supt. Jennifer Guy.  

PreK programs for four-year-olds have been available at Barranca and Piñon Elementary schools for several years. This year, programs were created at Chamisa and Mountain Elementary schools. The program that was to be available at Aspen Elementary was moved to Mountain for this year, but will be available next school year. 

Gina Terrazas, the new Director of Preschool Programs for Los Alamos Public Schools, is enjoying her new role and is enjoying the interaction with staff and students. “I work with many different administrators within the district and with many folks from PED (Public Education Department,” she said. “In the short time we have been in session, I have worked with transportation, food services, curriculum and have had the opportunity to visit all elementary campuses and observe, assist and take data.

Students in the PreK program attend school five days a week from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm with time for lunch. Teachers are using Three Cheers for Pre-K in their classrooms. “It’s the all-new Pre-Kindergarten curriculum that helps get young children ready for kindergarten, said Ms. Terrazas.” It incorporates skills-based experiences and purposeful play and initiates learning around quality children’s literature.”

The LAPS PreK program follows state guidelines that include curriculum, FOCUS training for Teachers, Instructional Assistants, and Administrators. “As part of the guidelines, we must follow the PreK Standards which are based on seven essential elements: Health, Safety & Nutrition, Full Participation of Each Child, Developmentally Appropriate Content, Assessment, Evaluation And Improvement of Programs, Professionalism, and Administration of NM Preschool Programs,” Ms. Terrazas explained.

The demand for early childhood services was not being met with the limited resources available in Los Alamos. “Based on the enrollment numbers in Kindergarten every year, approximately 100 4-year-olds were unserved in the district,” said Ms. Terrazas. “By expanding the program to additional school sites, LAPS is better able to serve families in the Los Alamos area by providing access to a pre-kindergarten program. 

There are nine teachers in the PreK program for four-year-olds.  Abigail Lopez and Fe West are teaching at Barranca, Jeannine Rey and Carrie Johnson are at Mountain, Raeann Harp and Donica Fortin are at Piñon, Tiffany Ziegler is teaching at Chamisa. Jodi Smith and Lisa Pike are the Aspen Elementary PreK teachers who are working at Mountain this year. The program also includes 20 Instructional Assistants. 

There are also 24 three-year-olds in PreK3 programs at Barranca and Piñon Elementary schools. Secilli Keeler teaches PreK 3 at Barranca and Amamda Babicke is at Piñon.  The PreK3 schedule is four days a week. Students attend either a morning session from 8:30 am -11:30 am and an afternoon session from 12:30 pm – 3:30 pm.There are no sessions on Wednesdays.

“I see the PreK program moving in a positive direction where children have access to a developmentally appropriate environment which fosters creativity, social emotional growth and provides the foundation for early learning,” said Ms. Terrazas. “The PreK program will set the stage for a lifetime love of learning.”