Shelter Island Preschool welcomes 10 students

Preschooler Evelyn Restrani gives some tender loving care to a plant in her classroom at the Shelter Island Early Childhood Learning Center.

“It’s a very beautiful rhythm this year,” said Hannah Gray, Shelter Island Early Childhood Learning Center teacher who, with her new assistant, Kaitlin McElroy, welcomed students to the privately operated school headquartered at the Presbyterian Church.

Enrollment is expected to total 10 students for the fall semester — seven 2-year-old students and three 3-year-olds.

There was no crying among the children on Sept. 5, the first day of school, and all of the students seemed pleased to be there. “It’s a pretty loving environment,” Ms. Gray said.

This year, she was able to acquire some old-fashioned desks for each student. Older readers will remember those as the desks with tops that opened upward to store materials inside. The desks have proven popular with the children, who see them as their own personal space in the open classroom.

Taking the children out to the playground, Ms. Gray was concerned that the younger children might wander into the parking lot, but they walked out staying on the grass as they’d been instructed and sang their way over to the playground without incident, she said.

While parents sometimes feel their children are too young to attend school, socializing with other children and learning some skills is a means of preparing them to advance smoothly when they transfer to Shelter Island School. A new literacy program is being implemented this year that should go a long way helping prepare students for upper grades and to identify possible learning difficulties, Ms. Gray said.

Early intervention can deal with issues that, left unidentified, may result in later learning problems that are more complex and more expensive to remedy, Ms. Gray said.

A “Writing without Tears” effort is being launched for the preschoolers. It has them using pieces of wood to form letters so they’re able to learn what the letters look like when they’re finally given pencils to create their own writing, Ms. Gray said.

Preschool children are required to be vaccinated to avoid diptheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza type B and pneumococcal disease. The state mandate on vaccinations was passed by the legislature and signed in June, prohibiting parents from using religion to exempt their children from compliance.

If there’s a theme to this year’s preschool program it’s the “Carnival of the Animals,” a ballet to a musical suite by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. The children will be learning to relate the music to animals and will present their own program at the end of the year.

Money to operate the program, while keeping it affordable for parents, is always an issue, Ms. Gray said. Last year, the town contributed $10,000 to the program. Whether that will happen again hasn’t been determined, but anyone who wishes to contribute may do so at