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Council Bluffs Community Schools, Pott. County out pacing the state in kindergarten readiness for preschoolers

“This year, Pottawattamie County ranks number one in the state for literacy kindergarten readiness.”
Posted at 7:36 AM, May 28, 2024

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (KMTV) — A collaboration between the Iowa West Foundation, the Green Hills AEA, and school districts in Pott. County are setting up four-year-old preschoolers for success through full day programming.

  • Iowa only funds half-day preschool programs for every four-year-old in the state, but the Iowa West Foundation has ensured every school district in Pottawattamie County can offer full day programming. 
  • Council Bluffs Community schools have 30 full day programs alone. The district is outpacing the state average in kindergarten readiness in language, literacy, and math among others. 
  • VIDEO: See the new Anne E. Nelson Early Learning Center in Council Bluffs and hear from a set of parents who speak about the full day benefits. 


"When I grew up it was in a church basement and that's what we had a half a day."

Emily and Matt Warren are talking about preschool. We all experienced something similar.

But their daughter is attending preschool here at the brand-new Anne E. Nelson Early Learning Center in Council Bluffs.

Sure, the facility is one of a kind — but it's the opportunity to go to school for the full day rather than a half-day that is making a difference for children in CB and all of Pottawattamie County.

"Having that, with certified teachers, has been such a benefit for Maggie. She has learned so much," Emily Warren said.

While their six-year-old son wasn't able to come here for preschool, he was still able to receive the full day, pre-k education.

"I just feel like he's so far advanced socially — being able to develop friends and relationships," Matt Warren shared.

"Kids are here longer, they're getting a lot of experience and exposure to all things,” Green Hills Area Education Agency Early Childhood Consultant Jenna Hoesing said.

“Social emotional learning, literacy, math, play base skills — to help them so when they enter kindergarten, they're ready to just hit the ground running."

Then why is this not the case throughout the state?

"The state of Iowa doesn't fund full day preschool for four-year-olds," Council Bluffs Community Schools Early Childhood Administrator Mandy Sanders said.

Instead — the state funds just half-day programs.

Thats where the Iowa West Foundation comes in.

"We have been supporting preschool throughout all of Pottawattamie County for 18 years, about a million dollars a year, to make sure all the school districts in Pottawattamie County have the opportunity to have their students and kids go to full-day, four-year-old preschool," Iowa West Foundation President & CEO Brenda Mainwaring said.

They've teamed up with the Green Hills Area Education Agency to ensure students aren't just here all day — but are getting the most out of the day.

"One of our jobs is to go into preschool programs to help support the teachers with curriculum and professional development," Hoesing explained.

"She has just blossomed, and it has been because of the staff and being here all day and being attended to,” Emily Warren added. “They're just wonderful."

The collaboration is paying off.

"This year, Pottawattamie County ranks number one in the state for literacy kindergarten readiness," Mainwaring said.

In Council Bluffs alone — there's 30 different full day preschool programs for four-year-olds.

Those kids in the Council Bluffs Community School District are outperforming four-year-olds across the state.

The district shared these numbers with us — showing the percentage of students at or above the benchmark this past winter for kindergarten readiness.

The CB four-year-olds are ahead of the state average in language, literacy, and math — on top of the social emotional and cognitive benchmarks.

"We need the funding to be able to provide these programs. We need the AEA's support to provide high quality professional development for our staff, so we can continue to see the growth in our students,” Sanders said. “To continue to rise above the state average in all areas – that's really important to us."

In my hometown of Council Bluffs — I'm Zach Williamson.