Grant helps District 16 screen kids early

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

Spring Lake Park Schools is a new partner in the Early Identification Project with Centennial and St. Francis school districts.

Registration is now open for the second semester of Early Childhood Family Education classes in the Spring Lake Park School District. Photo submitted
Registration is now open for the second semester of Early Childhood Family Education classes in the Spring Lake Park School District. Photo submitted

A $50,000 grant through the Anoka County Child and Family Council helps the three school districts in their mission to administer early childhood screening to as many children as possible before age 4.

By law, children must participate in early childhood screening before enrolling in kindergarten.

Typically, Spring Lake Park Schools screens between 350 and 400 children annually, according to Barb Saunders, who coordinates early childhood screening in the district.

The district has been making an effort to screen children earlier in recent years, as young as age 3. The optimum time is between ages 3 1/2 and 4, according to Saunders.

Screening early allows early childhood staff to help parents take steps to get their kids on track for success in kindergarten.

Using the Minneapolis Preschool Screening Instrument, educators evaluate children in the following areas: cognitive development, social development, hearing, vision, height, weight, immunizations, health history, fine motor skills and gross motor skills.

The grant has allowed the district to spend more money on outreach, Saunders said.

“We’re trying to find ways to find some of those children who may be more at risk,” she said.

The district will take screening on the road for the first time Jan. 26, inviting families to have their kids screened at Learn and Grow Childcare Center within the Blaine Human Services Center, 1201 89th Ave. NE, Blaine.

The grant has also allowed Spring Lake Park Schools to purchase a new audiometer for hearing tests, books to distribute at outreach events and more, according to Saunders.

To register for screening at the Early Childhood Center, 880 Osborne Road, Fridley, visit Upcoming dates are Jan. 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Jan. 25 from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Additional upcoming early childhood events

Sara Boyer, an occupational therapist working in the Spring Lake Park School District, will lead a free event called Sensory Strategies for Young Children Jan. 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the District Services Center, 1415 81st Ave. NE, Spring Lake Park.

Sensory processing plays a role in behavior, and using sensory strategies at home, in the classroom and in other environments can alter behaviors.

Saunders has learned about sensory strategies from Boyer, implementing them in her classes.

“(They) really has helped a lot of behavior problems in the district,” she said.

Boyer will discuss strategies pertaining to not only the traditional five senses, but also vestibular and proprioceptive senses, which encompass balance, movement and bodily awareness.

Individuals interested in attending the event are encouraged to register by leaving a message at 763-600-5938.

Later this month the second semester of Early Childhood Family Education classes starts up. Second semester registration opened to the public earlier this week.

“We’d love to have more families join us,” Saunders said. Approximately 100 families take advantage of ECFE programming each year in the district.

ECFE classes serve children from birth to age 5. Parents attend class with their children and receive education alongside the tykes.

For more information and to register, visit

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