The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 30, 1999


Parents of Young Children Can Choose...

In the February 26 issue of the Mosquito, Darlene D'Amour wrote about Carlisle's day care centers. This week she focuses on preschools in town.

Parents of young children may not be aware that there are a number of different preschools to choose from in Carlisle. While each preschool has a slightly different philosophy and perspective, all have the very best interests of young children at heart and are staffed by qualified teachers who enjoy working with them.

"It's important for the first school experience to be fun," says Diane Melanson of Noah's Ark Nursery School, "We have a structured schedule each day but we always have flexibility." Janet Kahane of the Red Balloon Nursery School agrees "We don't focus on academics. We have fun with hands-on projects. It's not the end result, but what children learn from the process, that's important." At the new Integrated Preschool at the Carlisle Public School, Linda Stapp says of the preschool years "It's important that children feel good about school and to instill a love of learning and of new experiences at this age."

Parents can tour the preschools, meet with staff, take home newsletters and the class schedule and get a sense of the way the school day runs. While most preschools already have a waiting list for the 1999-2000 school year, tours for families whose children will reach preschool age in later years can be arranged at any time. Janet Kahane of the Red Balloon says parents should look for a good match between their own child and a preschool program that will suit them. She says that often a preschool is selected on the basis of an instinct that a school is right for their child, or a personal preference for one school's style. The condition and appearance of classroom spaces and the outside play areas are also important to parents. For many families, the number of days available and any extended hours offered are also important considerations. The Carlisle Children's Center and The Children's Place also offer morning preschool programs at their day care centers. Those who want a larger preschool environment for their child often look at one of the preschools in Concord, such as The Children's Meetinghouse.

Licensed by the State

The preschools are licensed with the state Office for Children and staff members have backgrounds in Early Childhood Education as required by state guidelines. While most preschools prefer that a child be toilet-trained when entering preschool at age three, toilet-training cannot be required due to state law.

Teachers agree that learning to interact socially with other children is one of the main goals of preschool, along with learning how to accept responsibility, take turns and follow class routines. Basic skills such as counting and categorizing are learned but always in a fun, relaxed, creative environment. In class projects children practice small motor skills by cutting, pasting, drawing and holding a pencil. Large motor skills develop during the outdoor play times that take place every day, weather permitting. Both music and art also play a big part in a preschooler's day.

Red Balloon Nursery School,

27 School Street

The Red Balloon, located in the First Religious Society building, has been in operation since 1971. The nursery school is a cooperative with parents asked to take part in running and maintaining the school. Parents are asked to attend their child's class and help with activities from one to several days per semester, depending on the number of days the child attends school. Most parents choose the Red Balloon because they want to be involved in their child's first school experience and see what goes on in their day, says Director Janet Kahane. Also for many families, being involved with preschool is a way to get to know people in the town.

Among some of the many activities needed to run the school, parents can choose to work on ordering supplies, cleaning up, contacting interested parents by phone, giving tours or updating The Carlisle Phone Book, the major annual fund-raiser for the Red Balloon. The phone book is mailed free to all Carlisle households each year. Fifty percent of parents take part in the phone book project, with many obtaining paid advertisements from area businesses. Additionally, parents have the option of "buying out" their parent commitment time by paying a fee to the school if they are unable to volunteer. They can also make arrangements to trade time with another parent.

The Red Balloon rents space from the church but its programs are not affiliated with the church. In the last year, the school has expanded the space it uses to accommodate separate classrooms for three-and-four year olds. Three-year-olds can attend either two or three days a week, while four-year-olds attend four days a week. The class for four-year-olds was extended to four days a week this year to help prepare children for longer days in kindergarten. The Carlisle Public School has recently added two full days in the second half of the kindergarten year.

Kahane, who is also a teacher in the four-year-old class, has been with the school for seven years and teacher Uta Lemmermann has been involved with the preschool since it began and has been a teacher there for the last 18 years. In addition, two other teachers work with the Red Balloon children. Currently there is a short waiting list for the 1999-2000 school year.

Beth Platt, who is president of the parent cooperative, has been associated with the preschool for five years with her three children. She says it's been a wonderful experience and she and her children have made many friendships through the school. Parents who choose the cooperative experience understand the time commitment involved, she says, but by volunteering on projects, they get to know other parents in the community. Platt believes all the teachers are excellent and says of Kahane "She has a gift for kidsan ability. She can understand a child within a few days of meeting them."

Red Balloon Information:

Director: Janet Kahane

Phone: 371-7023

How long in operation: Since 1971

Date applications accepted: Applications can be requested starting in September for enrollment the following September. Parents notified of acceptance in mid-February. Interested families can call to be put on a list to receive an application when available.

Ages: The preschool accepts children from age three until they enter kindergarten at age five. Children must be three-years-old by September 1st for the three-year-old classes, and four years old by September 1st for the four-year-old class.

Teacher/Student Ratio: Three-year-old classes: 1 teacher plus 1 parent helper/8 students or 2 teachers plus 1 parent helper/16 students. Four-year-old classes: 2 teachers plus 1 parent helper/ 18-20 students approximately daily.

Hours: Three-year-old classes: Tuesday/Thursday 9-12 or Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 9-12. Four-year-old classes: Monday-Friday 9-12, with each student scheduled to attend four out of five mornings.

Extended hours: "Lunch bunch" students stay from 12-1 two days a week this year. Parents provide lunch.

1999-2000 annual tuition (Estimated at this time, pending approval): Three-year-old class, Two-days/week: $1,130; Three-days/week: $1,695. Four-year- old class, Four-days/week: $2,240. Scholarships: Are available based on qualified financial need and are on a confidential basis.

Daily activities schedule: Morning arranged into outdoor and indoor play time, projects, meeting time, snack and quiet times, and a story, music or listening game.

Parent involvement: Cooperative preschool with classroom participation and parent labor requirement.

Plans for expansion: Recently expanded into additional space to have separate rooms for three- and four-year-olds.

Noah's Ark Nursery School,

147 School Street

Noah's Ark Nursery School has operated since 1980 and is located in the Congregational Church on School Street. While Noah's Ark is licensed as a Christian nursery school, it respects all beliefs and has children from many different religious backgrounds, according to director and owner Diane Melanson. The school does not have daily Christian religious teachings but is free to discuss Christ's birth at Christmas, for example. The school also celebrates other religious holidays such as Hanukkah. Noah's Ark rents space from the Carlisle Congregational Church but is not associated with the church.

The preschool has changed its class structure for next year. Currently Noah's Ark has a toddler program for children from 15 months to two years, nine months, but the program ends this year to make way for separate classrooms for older children. Parents wanted separate classrooms for three- and four-year-old children because they are at different developmental stages, according to Melanson. The nursery school did not have the space to accommodate everyone.

Noah's Ark has a preschool enrollment cut-off date of December 31st, to accept children who are two years, nine months of age. This allows children whose birthdays fall between September 1st and December 31st to attend preschool a few months before they turn three, rather than waiting until the following year to attend. Preschool I is for children who turn three before September 1st and Preschool II is for those who turn three between September 1st and December 31st. Next year, the two groups of three-year-olds will have separate classroom projects and meeting times but will play together during free and outdoor play times. Four- to five-year-olds will attend either four or five mornings of pre-kindergarten in a separate class.

Parents can choose to be involved in the nursery school operations but their participation is completely optional, said Melanson, who understands that parents work or need the personal time while their child is away at school during the morning. Melanson says the staff of six teachers has a low turnover rate. She says "The job gets easier the longer you work with preschoolers as you get to know and understand the age-appropriate behaviors of young children."

Sara Lennon has been involved with the school for three years with her two young children and likes Noah's Ark because it is a family-run preschool that has been able to offer flexible options. Lennon works part-time out of the home and says Noah's Ark has been "very accommodating" when she had an appointment and needed extended hours for her children after the morning program. She gives high praise to the staff members and also likes the small class sizes and the bright indoor spaces and the outdoor play areas. Parents are involved in school life by participating in events such as parties, feasts and raffles.

Noah's Ark Information:

Contact: Diane Melanson

Phone: 371-0037

How long in operation: Since 1980

Date applications accepted: Applications are processed starting in January for enrollment in September. Interested families can call to be put on a list to receive an application when they are available.

Teacher/Student Ratio: Preschool classes (Age three): 2 teachers/10 students, Pre-kindergarten classes (Age four): 1 teacher/12 students

Ages: Accepts children from age two years, nine months, until they enter kindergarten at age five. There are two separate classes for three-year-olds, Preschool I, for children who will turn three years old between January 1st and August 31st and Preschool II for children who will turn three years old between September 1st and December 31st. Pre-kindergarten class: Age four to kindergarten age

Hours: Preschool classes: Two days (Tuesday, Thursday), three days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) or five days (Monday-Friday), 9-12. Pre- kindergarten classes: Four days (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) or five days (Monday-Friday) 9-12.

Extended hours: Offered daily from 12-1. In the current school year, optional extended hours are also offered from 9-3, twice weekly. Parents provide lunch.

Summer program: Offered for one week in July.

1999-2000 annual tuition: Preschool I and II, Age 3: 2-day program $1,400; 3-day program $1,750; 5-day program $2,900. Pre-kindergarten, Age 4-5: 4-day program $2,370; 5-day program $3,020.

Scholarships: Available through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), with which the preschool is affiliated.

Daily activities schedule: Morning arranged into free play, meeting time with theme of the week, calendar and weather, a show-and-tell, art or music time and outdoor play.

Parent involvement: Parent participation is optional, though welcomed. Parents are invited to help during Parent Helper Week and to drive on field trips.

Plans for expansion: The preschool has no current plans to expand due to space limitations.

Carlisle Integrated Preschool, Carlisle Public School

The Carlisle Public School opened its first integrated preschool class in the Robbins building last September to provide in-town services for young children with special needs and for other preschool-age children in Carlisle. The preschool is funded by the town and by the fees of students without special needs.

According to Linda Stapp, director of Student Support Services, children with special needs previously traveled to Bedford, Burlington and Sudbury for special needs preschool programs. Federal and state law requires that towns and cities provide preschool instruction for children with special needs starting at age three. While the higher cost of sending children out of town to attend preschool provided the initial incentive for starting the program in Carlisle and made good economic sense, Stapp says, "All students are part of the community and we are glad to provide a place for them in Carlisle." She said the school committee was helpful in getting the program implemented; however the preschool had to wait for a room to become available when the school expanded last year.

There is one preschool class of 15 children with five special needs children and ten preschoolers without special needs. Children of mixed ages, from three to five years old, attend the preschool class with some children attending for two years before kindergarten. Stapp said that special needs children have two or more areas requiring assistance, most often in the areas of speech and language, but also including learning disabilities, motor skills or health-related issues. Special needs are identified through guidelines developed by the state.

There is a high number of teachers for the students in the integrated preschool where two teachers and two aides work with the class of 15 children. Additionally, a speech/language therapist and an occupational therapist work with the children on a part-time daily basis. All students attend Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 9-12. Special needs students also attend Tuesday and Thursday mornings for more focused reinforcement. But while children learn through class instructions, Stapp emphasizes that all activities take place in a play environment appropriate for preschool.

Along with the five openings for Carlisle special needs students, Stapp anticipates there will be approximately four-five openings for other students each year. This is because some children will attend the class for the two years before kindergarten. The community response to the integrated preschool has been good, she says, and there currently is a waiting list for the 1999-2000 school year.

When Julia Krapf was looking for a preschool for her three-year-old daughter, one of the ten preschoolers in the class without special needs, she talked with friends in other towns whose children are also enrolled in integrated preschools and found they were happy with the experience. Her main concern was having children of mixed ages (three to five) in the same classroom. However, she says having older children has actually worked well because it "stretches" her daughter to learn from them. Krapf praises the quality of the teaching staff and also likes the fact that the preschool itself is small. The children use some of the resources of the "big school" visiting the school library, for example. In the integrated preschool, she says, a child with special needs receives assistance at an early age.

Carlisle Integrated Preschool Information:

Contact: Linda Stapp, Director of Student Support Services

Phone: 369-3758

How long in operation: Started in September 1998

Date applications accepted: Applications are processed starting in January for enrollment in September. Interested families can call to be put on a list to receive an application when they are available.

Teacher/Student Ratio: 2 teachers plus 2 classroom aides/15 students. Additionally a speech and language therapist and an occupational therapist visit the class daily on a part-time basis.

Ages: Children must be three years old by September 1st. The preschool class accepts children from age three until they enter kindergarten at age five.

Hours: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9-12 for all children. Also on Tuesday and Thursday, 9-12 for children with special needs.

Extended hours: An optional lunch program from 12-1 is offered three times a week next year. Parents provide lunch.

1999-2000 tuition: For paying students only a sliding scale fee has a $180 per month maximum. Parents can either pay the full rate or use a financial disclosure form to apply for a reduced rate.

Daily activities schedule: Morning arranged into open activity time, songs, calendar and group games time, snack, outdoor play, project time, clean-up and story time.

Parent involvement: Parents are invited to help with special projects or demonstrations and can volunteer to be substitutes when a teacher is out.

Plans for expansion: The program has a maximum of 15 children and there are no current plans to expand.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito