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New preschool programs launch in Montana, funded by temporary state grant

September 1, 2017
Jayme Fraser

ALBERTON — Sue Dallapiazza started as Alberton’s first-ever preschool teacher with only a few days to buy supplies, set up a room and build a program.

“White, blank walls. There was nothing there. We had to go buy everything. We worked hard, didn’t we, Kim?” Dallapiazza said, standing amid a flurry of five 4- and 5-year olds as she turned to paraeducator Kim Garding during a Thursday tour of the school by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

“It was fast,” she agreed. “Two days?”

Principal Kyle Fisher said, “Honestly, it was a storage room before. If you didn’t want something, you threw it in here.”

On Thursday, the corner room featured whiteboards and posters on the wall, bright carpets with the alphabet, child-sized chairs and tables, and shelves with photos taped next to the word labels so students would know which toys and supplies went where.

“They can’t read yet so they have to know where everything goes,” Dallapiazza said, pointing to a boy as he returned a box of toys to its right place. “See? They become independent.”

Alberton’s first preschool is thanks to a two-year, $85,000 STARS grant from the state. Bullock visited the rural school west of Missoula this week to celebrate the state program intended to serve as a test for future expansion.