The Learning Express Preschool began in 1990, when one classroom was opened at Baker Elementary School as an early prototype for preschool Early Intervention. Cheryl Tyler was the lead teacher, with Susan Barton co-teaching. With two support staff, this team served a total of 24 students in two sessions. The program moved to the Curtin building in 1991. In 2013, the Learning Express consolidated and moved to the Washington Jefferson building. As of the 2016-2017 school year, the Washington Jefferson building is home to the Altoona Area School District's Learning Express Pre-School program, but the Altoona Area School District also leases the building to 3 separate programs: Head Start, Pre-K Counts, and ACRP.
Learning Express 2016-2017
The Learning Express is a pre-school program of the Altoona Area School District and is open to all families residing in the Altoona Area School District. Our Early Intervention pre-school program provides regular education and special education services to qualifying children ages 3-5 years old, who are not yet eligible for kindergarten. Children who attend The Learning Express experience an integrated classroom with special learners and typical learners being taught side by side. This provides all children with a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other.
Typically developing children are awarded placement for a no-cost preschool program on a first come, first serve basis. For children who may need Early Intervention Services, a Multidisciplinary Team evaluation determines if a child is eligible for services. Any child exhibiting at least a 25% developmental delay and is in need of specially designed instruction may qualify. Services provided may include specialized instruction, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, vision support, or hearing impaired support. Services can be provided at The Learning Express program, or at off-sites like private pre-schools, Head Starts, childcare centers, the child's personal home, or at any other itinerant site. These services are offered as a part of the federally funded free and appropriate public education services mandated by federal law.
Currently there are 10 classrooms at the Learning Express. Classroom teachers are state-certified in Early Childhood Education and/or Special Education and use a state-approved, developmentally appropriate curriculum. Specialized classrooms, (including the PATTAN Autism Initiative classroom, formerly the Verbal Behavior classroom, which was chosen by the Pennsylvania State Department of Education as a Model VB Site), also offer services for children needing a highly supportive learning environment.
Families of children with disabilities are included in all aspects of the child's services, beginning with the initial evaluation and the development of the Individualized Educational Program (IEP), as well as ongoing progress monitoring. Opportunities for all parents to volunteer at the Learning Express exist throughout the program, and the Parent Advisory Board is an integral part of the program.