TALLADEGA -- Much recent research has gone into the contributions of a pre-kindergarten program to the future success of students, and such programs have become increasingly common, if not always so easy to get into.

The preschool program at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Talladega pre-dates all these others, however, and, according to news release, is the oldest continuously functioning program in Talladega County.

The current school year is the 37th for the preschool at Episcopal Day School.

“It was established in 1977 as an outreach for the well-established episcopal church, and answered the needs of the community,” the release said. “The school has graduated many students who have entered into successful professions and in turn have enrolled their children back into (EDS).”

Alecia Perry has been EDS director since 2008, and was a member of that first-ever class in 1977. Both of her children attended EDS.

“I enrolled my children in EDS because I wanted a loving atmosphere where my children could learn the skills needed to grow, and I took the director position after leaving public education because (I wanted to) be part of a program that I believed in.”

The multi-generational story is not at all unusual for the program.

“We have many parents who enroll their children in EDS (who) were also students of EDS,” she said in the release. “The school has supported generations of families.”

Father Ben Turnage, pastor of St. Peter's, added, “We like to think of ourselves as an extension of their families, a place where parents can feel comfortable sending their child to grow and develop, mentally, socially and spiritually, in a relaxed and orderly Christian atmosphere. We sing songs and learn prayers and the children have a good time while they learn.”

Turnage, who has been pastor of the church for the last three years, also leads a weekly chapel service for the children.

Preschool classes are Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. An after-school program was added two years ago, as well, to “help meet the needs of families with two working parents,” Perry explained. “We have also added SmartBoards and iPads to encourage next-generation learning. We want to give our students a firm foundation to be successful at every stage of their lives.”

According to the church’s website, St. Peter’s has been involved in education in Talladega since 1844, when a school for girls was established. The parish was organized six years later, and met in various storefronts for the next 20 years. The first building was erected a few blocks off the square following the Civil War. Ground was broken for the current church in 1898. Funding problems stopped the work, and the cornerstone was relaid in 1922. The building was completed in 1927 and expanded in 1958.

For more information about the Episcopal Day School, please call 256-362-6646.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com.