NORTHFIELD – As the school year begins the Northfield School District will welcome 72 pre-school students (ages 3 and 4) as the district continues their program that began in January. It is fully funded by the state of New Jersey with Preschool Expansion Aide. According to District Superintendent Pete Bretones, this will be the first full year of the program. The district was able to establish the pre-school program through $950,000 in state aid in the 2018-19 school year and had a program in place from January 2019 through the end of the school year. For the 2019-20 school year Northfield received $968,000 in funds to continue the program.
Bretones said that just like state aid every year, school districts have to wait and see what they will receive but the Superintendent said the governor supports the program and continues to allocate state funds to preschool expansion, Northfield will continue to apply.
The curriculum for the preschool program was chosen by the Northfield School District from a list of state approved curricula. Northfield is using the Creative Learning Curriculum. He explained that it is experiential and based on themes. “Rather than doing a letter of the week, the students will explore through a theme, like leaves, and incorporate academic lessons and projects around that,” said Bretones.
The classrooms are limited to 15 students and each classroom has a certified teacher and an aide. Because of the number of students, the Northfield Community School could not accommodate all of the preschool students on the campus. There are two classrooms at NCS and three classrooms at private providers; Beth Israel, Partners in Learning, and Kiddie Kastle. The classes are mixed 3- and 4-year old’s together.
While Bretones said it is too early to really have data on the program the one thing that is evident is the social growth the students made from when classes began in January until the end of the school year.
Northfield Community School Elementary Principal, Maureen Vaccaro is the administrator for the students in the district’s preschool disability class along with the kindergarten through fourth grades and the new 3-and4-year-old preschool student on campus and at the community partner sites.
Asked if she thinks the preschool students are better prepared for success school with an early start, Vaccaro said, “I believe, since we will begin to track this data this year as we only started our Preschool program in January and need to see a few years data, that the students in the five Northfield School classrooms, whether on-site or off-site, are all receiving the same curriculum and instruction from highly qualified certified teachers, we certainly have more consistency that we would have had in the past. This should present us, when the students arrive in kindergarten, at least the knowledge that all the children are starting from about the same point in their education. Social and emotional growth are quite different, but this does give us the academic instruction advantage.”
Vaccaro added, “I meet with the directors of the three off-site schools monthly, we share ideas, and we share information on orientations, parent-teacher conferences, class trips, shared events, and fun ideas.”
The 3-and 4-year old preschool program is offered free of cost to all Northfield families. Bretones suggested parents of young children check out what the school district has to offer its youngest students by visiting https://www.ncs-nj.org/Page/1326