Class sizes keep growing, making space a precious commodity in Carthage.

Class sizes keep growing, making space a precious commodity in Carthage.

In preparation for another year of student population growth, three connected entities of Carthage's early childhood education are moving or will move this July.

When Lauren Platt began the Parents As Teachers (PAT) program in Carthage in 1984, it was located in the art building east of the original high school, serving 25 children. Because of continuous growth to this day, the three entities of the early childhood education program have never been together since. As of this summer, Parents As Teachers (PAT), four classes of Special Education and the District-wide Title I Pre-school will all have moved … again.

“We have outgrown everything,” said PAT supervisor Jane Goade. “In a perfect world, we would have an early childhood education center. But we're workable here [in the transition center] and we have professionals that make it work in the other locations.”

Dr. Mark Baker, assistant superintendent for business for the Carthage R-9 School District, said the three programs belong together but it's not something the district can afford right now.

“It would be great if they did have a facility where they could all be together but unfortunately we don't have the resources to build one,” he said. “The 2020 community group discussed the need but financially we cannot build a new facility. The class sizes at the high school are around 300. The kindergarten class that just finished is 398. Our pre-enrollment for next year is at over 400. Yes, there is a need for more space everywhere.”

The PAT, previously housed at the field house at the Carthage Middle School with a staff of seven, has moved to 127 W. 6th St. (just north of the Carthage Junior High School). The program, currently helping an estimated 1,300 Carthage families, helps children from prenatal to the first day they walk into a kindergarten classroom. From this program, children who need extra help are directed to the next entity of early childhood education.

“PAT has moved seven times,” Goade said. “In the 13 years I've been here, this will be my fifth move – and I'm sure we'll move again because the junior high will need this space … We are out of room.”

The Early Childhood Special Education program, previously housed at Steadley Elementary School, will move to leased space at the Fairview Christian Church. This program focuses on help to students aged three-pre-kindergarten who need additional help in various ways. Goade said she has seen this entity help a student scoring at 2 percent improve to 80 percent performance in early education.

The Pre-School, previously housed at Fairview Elementary School, will move to Steadley Elementary School. Baker said the need for this move was due to the addition of two new teachers (for fourth and first grade.) Currently, the limited amount of space in the pre-school is 120 students; which is double the amount from when Goade began with the program.

PAT requires space to screen each child that comes in for hearing and vision; which is hard to do when the room is shared with other activities. It is mandated by law that each child is screened before entering kindergarten. For Carthage this year, that will be 403 kids, and Goade said more always come in throughout the summer.

“Our administration knows how important early childhood development is,” Goade said. “If I can detect a problem at this age, we can address it and help the child enter kindergarten. Some of these kids we see couldn't go to into kindergarten without this program. It is like night and day for the kids who don't have any pre-school.”

For more information about the early childhood education program in Carthage, visit and view the “District-Wide Programs” tab.