Preschool survey launches, information critical for two education programs

JULIE LANE PHOTO Shelter Island Preschool Board President Victoria Weslek made the case last month before the Board of Education why the private program needs help to remain viable.

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Shelter Island Preschool Board President Victoria Weslek made the case last month before the Board of Education why the private program needs help to remain viable.

Talks on cooperative efforts continue between representatives of the Shelter Island School District and the private, non-denominational Shelter Island Preschool (SIP) operated at the Presbyterian Church.

But to guide officials at both schools for decisions on preschool classes for the 2016-17 school year, statistics have to be updated.

While the school district takes its own census every few years, some families may have been missed. The district and SIP sent out letters this week, asking parents about children who will be 4 years old in September, specifically asking:

• Do you plan to enroll them in the half-day prekindergarten morning program at the school?

• Do you have an interest in piggy-backing on the half-day afternoon program offered by the private program so your child would spend a half day at the school and then be escorted to the half day program at the church?

• Do you plan to enroll them only in the half day program at the church?

The district’s prekindergarten program will be entering its third year in September and so far, parents have been “delighted” with the progress their children have made,  Academic Administrator Jennifer Rylott said. Not only does the preschool program help socialize children early and teach them basic skills, it makes their transition to kindergarten easier, she added.

Parents who expect to enroll a child in either of the 4-year-old prekindergarten programs or in both in September, should call Ms. Rylott at 749-0302 extension 143 or email her at [email protected]

The preschool experience can often identify learning problems early to avoid costly special education services later, according to Shelter Island Preschool treasurer Nicholas Morehead.

The public school prekindergarten program is without cost to parents. SIP has charged $350 a month for children enrolled in a combined 3- and 4-year-old class that meets five mornings a week. SIP will continue its efforts to provide scholarships and financial aid to those parents who can’t afford full tuition costs, according to board member Kelly Surerus.

For working parents, a piggybacked program would give them about six hours of learning and other activities at far less cost that hiring a babysitter, Ms. Surerus said. What’s more, it would be with highly qualified teachers, she said, noting there is no daycare program on Shelter Island.

SIP has been offering preschool classes for 37 years, managing on tuition and contributions, but knew once the public school district started offering a preschool program, it would cut into revenues, board president, Victoria Weslek said.

It became critical this year when the district announced plans to take all eligible 4-year-olds. Three members of the Board of Education along with Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik and Ms. Rylott have been meeting with the SIP board to work out a solution to maintain both programs.

While public school tax money can’t be used for the private program, some fundraising can be supported to help SIP, Mr. Skuggevik said.

The SIP board is looking into other programs it can add to augment its preschool classes so if it ends up with only a few or no 4-year-old students, it can still offer its classes to 2- and 3-year-old children.

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