Little ones burned off energy as they played on the newly installed playground just outside their classroom.
Inside, little chefs whipped up imaginary creations in a play kitchen, while a few yards away, eager fingers grasped crayons, poised for writing.
This was a typical morning for preschoolers at Nassakeag Elementary School, where the Three Village Central School District is partnering with SCOPE Education Services to offer a tuition-based prekindergarten for 4-year-olds.
Like most preschools, the day starts with a morning meeting and includes lessons in literacy as well as art. There are learning centers and outdoor play.
Kristin Rimmer, Nassakeag assistant principal and prekindergarten liaison, said what makes this program stand out — in a community with no shortage of preschools — is its role in easing students’ transition to kindergarten.
“We have an understanding of what the expectations are in our kindergarten programs,” Rimmer said.
Rimmer, who began her career as a kindergarten teacher, said she worked with the district’s kindergarten, first and second grade teachers to develop a curriculum that emphasizes the skills students will need in the early elementary grades. She then collaborated with SCOPE, which runs several universal prekindergartens and fee-based programs across the island, to create a curriculum specific to the needs of future Three Village students.
“We’re really giving them those building blocks in this program that they can use to transition up into the kindergarten program,” she said.
For instance, the preschool uses “Fundations,” the same phonics program used in Three Village primary grades. Rimmer added that New York State-certified teachers, hired and supervised by SCOPE, use multi-sensory approaches to guide students in a way that is developmentally appropriate and fosters creativity as well as social and emotional growth.
“Though there is an academic focus, the way that we are delivering that instruction is through play and through interactive activities,” she said.
SCOPE, which offers programs in neighboring Comsewogue, Commack and Hauppauge, handles the staffing, licensing and day-to-day operation of the preschool. Tuition payments — $400 a month for half-day and $1,100 for full day — are paid to SCOPE.
Mellisa Krauss, supervisor for prekindergarten programs at SCOPE, said the organization “had great administrative support to implement and maintain” the program.
“We collaborate on all aspects. It’s a team effort,” she said.
Krauss said there are currently 29 students enrolled in the new prekindergarten. Of that number 18 attend half-day, 8:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. or 11:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., and 11 are in the full-day program that runs from 8:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Parents can extend the day by enrolling their children in school-aged childcare for an additional fee.
The preschool follows the Three Village school calendar, which means it issues progress reports and holds parent-teacher conferences on the district’s schedule. Rimmer said that information from the quarterly assessments would be used to measure the strengths of the program and determine what improvements can be made.
The district spent $24,000 on the purchase of playground equipment for the preschool. The funds came out of the district’s portion of the Smart Schools Bond, money earmarked for learning technology and prekindergarten spaces, said Jeffrey Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services.
Rimmer said early entrée to the Three Village school community provides the opportunity to identify students who may need additional help and to help parents get special services that might be needed.
Since the preschool is open to Three Village residents and children of district staff, families are invited to join the Nassakeag PTA and to take part in the school’s upcoming harvest festival.
Though the program is a little more than a month old, the addition of a three-year-old program will be considered if there’s a need, Rimmer said.