Early Education Program off to a Great Start

The OSSU’s new Early Education Program is off to a successful start with nearly 30 students between the ages of 3-5 enrolled.

The program is the result of a recent State mandate that requires public school systems to offer universal pre-school programs to all three and four year old children. Families who may not have access to high quality, licensed, pre-K programs because the programs in their area are already full; because they cannot afford the cost; or because there aren’t programs available in their region are able to take advantage of this new opportunity.

“We’re actually a year ahead of compliance with the mandate,” said Pat Miller, Associate Principal at Randolph Elementary and the lead administrator in the development of the preschool program “And so far, it’s been a terrific success.”

According to Miller, the program is being run out of Randolph Elementary School, but is open to families from all three OSSU sending towns. “We offer morning and afternoon sessions,” she said, “and our children are coming from a wide range of family situations. Some students have parents who work part-time, some have a stay-at-home parent who just needs a few hours to themselves and some are children whose families can’t afford private child-care. Children with special needs are part of the preschool and are really benefiting from being around typically developing peers. All in all, we’ve been extremely pleased with how everything is coming together.”

Dana Peterson-Quinn, Director & Early Education Special Needs Teacher, echoed Miller’s enthusiasm.

“It’s really been a smooth start to the year,” she said. “And I’ve been especially pleased to see the progress that some of our special needs children are making. We’re seeing growth in a number of areas, especially socialization and language, that we just didn’t see last year. Children who last year displayed limited language skills are learning and interacting with their peers in a way that’s been very gratifying to see.”

“Already,” Miller said, “the program is fully enrolled and we are taking additional names on a waiting list. Once a student participates in the program, they will automatically receive a spot for the subsequent year. In the spring new applications can be submitted via the school’s website. If more applications are received than we have spaces for, we will have a lottery system.   

“Though we’re only a few weeks into the year,” Miller continued, “the half day sessions are proving very popular. We are looking at possibilities to expand the program next year that could include a full day option and/or adding an additional choice in school locations. Last year we conducted a committee needs survey of residents in Braintree, Brookfield and Randolph that showed families really want high quality, full day, affordable options for their young children. Our hope is to offer several high quality options that meet a variety of needs for families in our supervisory union.

Another possibility for the future Miller said, may be pre-school partnerships with private daycare/preschool providers.  “Once we get fully up and running,” she said, “we want to reach out to other preschool and daycare facilities to coordinate activities and programs that will help prepare all of our children for kindergarten. When we first started thinking about hosting a public preschool, we asked a number of local daycare and preschool providers to help us understand their needs and the needs of the populations they serve so we could all work together towards a common goal. We didn’t want to draw students away from those high quality providers, and it’s been gratifying to see that this hasn’t happened. Our data shows us that children entering our preschool program this fall have not “jumped ship” from private area providers.

“All in all,” Miller said, “we couldn’t be more pleased with how the program is starting out. Children who might otherwise not have had the opportunity to attend preschool now have a place to go, and families who didn’t have access to a preschool now have a new option. As an educator, it’s been my observation that children who spend time in high quality daycare or preschool benefit socially, academically, and intellectually, and I’m glad OSSU can be a part of that.”

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