For the past two years, the Pre-K Committee has been working to figure out how to better prepare the youngsters of Hastings for success in kindergarten.

The group formed as a result of the Minnesota Department of Education's World's Best Workforce program, which requires school districts across the state to reach goals in several categories, according to committee head Jennifer Reichel.

The committee, which meets monthly, seeks to answer questions around how preschoolers can be ready for the raised expectations of kindergarten and how the curriculums in early elementary school can align to create success for more students.

"We realized that we are serving a quarter of Tilden students in getting them prepared, and that isn't enough," Reichel said. "That's when we started thinking about how we could align programming from kindergarten through third grade. There was still a piece missing."

One way that the committee reaches out to the community is through connecting with child care providers and giving them resources to increase their knowledge on the subject.

Within the group is the Kindergarten Readiness Leadership Team, where members act as a liaison for various child care providers.

The team also organizes monthly courses for child care providers that help increase their understanding of what children need to be ready for school. Each month tackles a new topic that individuals in early childhood education should be aware of in preparing kids. These professional development courses can also help workers in the field in relicensure.

"We have seen providers doing great things, but they also want to keep learning what they can do to help kids be ready for kindergarten," Riechel said.

In the future, Reichel hopes to increase the group's outreach, whether it be through doctors or connecting with parents.

"We have some dreams about things - like if we could do something with greeters at Walmart," Reichel said. "Maybe we could give them a little card with a few questions or small things on it so that they can engage with little kids as they come into the store - ask them how to spell a word or something. I think having the whole community involved would help kids be engaged in learning."

The Kindergarten Readiness Leadership Team is still offering free classes to providers for the current school year. All professional development classes will be held 6-8 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Curriculum Center next to Kennedy Elementary School. All courses are in line with licensing expectations and offer continuing education units.

Here are the sessions being offered:

• Jan. 8, Early Childhood Special Education

• Feb. 5, Literacy with kindergarten teachers

• March 6, Partnership with the library

• April 2, Working on early childhood indicators of progress

• May 7, Summer enrichment