WORTHINGTON — St. Mary’s School in Worthington is opening a preschool for the first time this fall.

Beginning in September, sections of 20 3-year-olds and 20 4-year-olds will meet two and three days a week, respectively, at the St. Mary’s School site. Enrollment qualifications require that students be older than 33 months and potty trained, said SMS Principal Jackie Probst.

Class will be from 8 to 11 a.m. for the students during their respective class days. In an attempt to accommodate parent schedules, students may be dropped off at 7:45 a.m. and picked up by 11:15 p.m.

“The hope is to allow busy parents to drop off students before their work day and pick up on their lunch hour,” Probst said.

Class will begin Sept. 9 for the 4-year-olds and Sept. 10 for the 3-year-olds. Nichole Rowe and Diane Hulstein will be the preschool teachers.

According to Probst, some preschool slots are filled, but others remain.

A 7 p.m. Aug. 14 open house is planned at the school. Families are invited to tour the preschool room, meet the teachers and fill out registration forms, if interested. Cookies and refreshments will be served.

According to Probst, the decision to add the sections of 40 preschoolers to the K-6 elementary school was multifaceted.

“We want to fulfill a need in our community and help the parents out,” said Probst, mentioning the closure of Sunny Days Preschool last spring.

She said the school also sees it as an opportunity to be a “feeder program” to its K-6 education and boost enrollment. Enrollment, Probst said, has stayed steady for the last several years, but is set to increase by more than 10 students this fall (not including preschool). Sans preschool, total enrollment is 80 students.

The program is possible in part due to a $25,000 matching challenge grant opportunity from the Schulze Family Foundation. Probst said St. Mary's took on the match challenge, and is poised to soon meet it.

“It seemed to happen all at the same time,” Probst said of learning about the matching grant challenge and Sunny Days announcing its closure. “It was a great time to give it a try.”

Probst said there’s high expectations of kids when they enter kindergarten. She hopes the opportunity to introduce kids to education at a younger age will prove beneficial.

“We’re just hoping to give them a great start to their educational experience,” Probst said. “Our main goal is to create lifelong learners. So hopefully by starting them a little younger, introducing them to what education has to offer them, we can give them a great head start for their future.”

For more information or if unable to attend the open house, contact Probst at 376-5236 or email info@smswgtn.org.