By Andrea Paldy
Big changes are ahead for Three Village’s free prekindergarten program, currently housed at Nassakeag Elementary School.
At an information session Jan. 9, administrators unveiled their plan to expand the pre-K program and to offer a new, tuition-based enrichment program at each of the district’s five elementary schools.
Though current pre-K students are grouped by “home” school at Nassakeag, the district has announced that it will expand the program to its other four buildings in order to “provide a smoother transition to elementary school.” The rationale is that it will allow students to attend classes at the same place where they will eventually be in elementary school.
Additionally, the move would prevent congestion at Nassakeag, since the district anticipates the growing program to require the use of up to 10 classrooms. The other buildings can easily accommodate the preschool program either in their kindergarten wings or nearby, according to school officials.
“We are committed to providing a high-quality pre-K program that provides students with a strong foundation for academic and social success,” said Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich in an email.
With the expansion to the other elementary buildings, next year’s program will continue to run as it currently does. Each school will have a morning and afternoon session that lasts for two and a half hours, and each classroom will have a certified teacher and assistant and up to 20 students.
Sessions at Minnesauke Elementary and Nassakeag will run from 8 to 10:30 a.m. and noon to 2:30 p.m., while those at Arrowhead, Mount and Setauket elementary schools will be held from 8:45 to 11:15 a.m. and 12:45 to 3:15 p.m. As with the current pre-K program, students will have access to a special age-appropriate preschool playground. The district says pre-K playgrounds will be built to accommodate the program expansion at the four additional elementary schools.
“We are committed to providing a high-quality pre-K program that provides students with a strong foundation for academic and social success.”
— Cheryl Pedisich
The district is also launching a tuition-based Patriots Plus Pre-K program. Staffed by a certified teaching assistant and a classroom aide, this extended day will offer enrichment in STEM, art, music and movement. Each school will run a morning and an afternoon session for 20 students and will include lunch in the cafeteria (with the option to purchase a meal) and recess. The district’s website says that tuition will be $500 a month.
The district says that there will be no additional cost to distribute the program to the other schools, since staffing for the pre-K curriculum is already covered. Administrators expect the cost of hiring five new teaching assistants and five aides for the enrichment program to be covered by tuition from the Patriots Plus program so that it is self-sustaining. Each enrichment section will need at least 10 students, the district says.
Administrators say parents with older elementary students will have a built-in window — 15 minutes before arrival and 15 minutes after dismissal — to drop off or pick up their prekindergartener and be back at the bus stop in time for older children.
Following feedback from last week’s information session, the district moved up the enrollment period to make it easier for parents to plan for the coming year. Applications will be accepted through Feb. 26. Students must turn 4 by Dec. 1, 2019, to be eligible.
Each school has a 40-student cap with a district cap of 200 students. If the number of applications exceeds the caps, there will be a lottery. Administrators say that students who aren’t selected through the lottery at their home school may attend the program at a different building, if there is room.
Three Village first offered a pre-K program in 2015, when it partnered with SCOPE Education Services to run and staff a fee-based curriculum. The district rolled out a free pre-K, taught by Three Village teachers, in the fall of 2017.