Two New Preschools Open In Knox County

Two New Preschools Open In Knox County

Knox County Schools serves tens of thousands of students every year, from three years old in preschool to seniors in high school. This year, two new preschools have been established as standalone schools to help serve the youngest members of the KCS community. 

Separating a preschool from an elementary school means a preschool-specific principal is added to the staff, the number of classrooms available increases to serve more students, and the district is able to make a more targeted effort to support early learners.

Cedar Bluff Preschool, which used to be part of Cedar Bluff Elementary, is being led by principal April Partin. Jason Harris is overseeing Karns Preschool, formerly with Karns Elementary, as principal. Several elementary schools in the district also have preschools that are operated as a singular entity under one principal.

The new preschools are a step toward achieving Excellence in Foundational Skills, one of the district’s Four Priorities.

“I do have some early literacy background that when I was a teacher to learn and focus on literacy,” Partin said. “How the brain develops in its foundational years has always been important to me as a person, as a teacher, as a mom. There’s so many levels of that, that I feel this spotlight on literacy values all of those experiences with preschool.”

Introducing foundational literacy to students at this age is laying the groundwork as they prepare for kindergarten. 

Preschool supervisor Beth Lackey explained, “We are working on letters and letter sounds, and how sounds work together to make words, and answering questions, and building vocabulary, and learning to love books.” She continued, “All of those things set them up for success because if we want kids to read on grade level in third grade, we know we need to start early.”

The new preschools also aim to promote growth in other areas of students’ lives, including a behavior liaison who has been added to school staff to promote social-emotional growth in students. Preschool-aged children experience significant brain development and providing a space to learn social skills is essential.

“Going through these skills like working with kids on how to open this, how to ask for help, how to sit your bottom in the chair, how to be in a big group,” Harris said. “Everything we do here, the teachers are involved. They’re interacting with kids on the playground, in breakfast, in lunch, in small groups. No one’s left by themselves doing a worksheet.”

Preschool classrooms are designed to foster rich, social learning. Tables are arranged in groups, and “centers” house interactive materials to teach math and literacy. Brightly colored posters line the walls and stuffed chameleons accompany the Connect 4 Learning curriculum that has been adopted by the preschools.

“It is a STEM-based curriculum, so our students are learning how to think like scientists,” Lackey said. 

Being a brand-new school also means principals are looking for community partners to donate time or supplies and create a mutually beneficial relationship in the community. 

“We want to work together,” Harris said. “It truly does take a village.”

If you are interested in learning more about preschool at KCS or you are ready to register your student, email Beth Lackey at

More information can be found at

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“Lunch & Learn” Discusses Foundational Literacy

“Lunch & Learn” Discusses Foundational Literacy

Members of the Knox County community gathered on Friday for a “Lunch and Learn” discussion at Pellissippi State Community College, a conversation that focused on awareness and advocacy of foundational literacy.

The Lunch and Learn series was initiated by KCS Board of Education Member Betsy Henderson in partnership with Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, the Knox County Education Foundation, and tnAchieves, to focus on current themes in education, both locally and statewide.

“The issues we’re hearing a lot this year are focused on literacy and foundational literacy,” Henderson said. “We wanted to focus on that, especially with Dr. Rysewyk’s priority on foundational skills. That’s one thing that personally, as a mom, is important to me.”

Panelists for Friday’s event included Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, KCS Executive Director for Learning and Literacy Dr. Erin Phillips, and SCORE Chief K-12 Impact Officer Dr. Sharon Roberts.

Phillips addressed the technical side of how students can increase their knowledge to build literacy, saying it’s important for them to master the foundational skills that pave the way for understanding more complex material.

Schwinn emphasized the importance of the group effort that is needed for building literacy, that goes beyond the classroom and into the home.

“Really strong early literacy instruction is so engaging,” Schwinn said. “Part of early literacy, part of teaching is really that partnership between the child and his or her teacher, the partnership of his or her teacher and the parent, and how together, we can crack the code.”

The goal of the event is to be more than just a luncheon where attendees learn from the panelists, but also to challenge community members with specific action items.

“Read as much as you can on this topic,” Roberts said. “Become as knowledgeable as you can on this topic. Read to children. I would encourage us to read on varying topics to build their knowledge.”

The next Lunch and Learn will likely focus on teacher recruitment and retention, and all events are open to the public.