SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 15, 2013

Column: Schools have something to offer early learners

Margaret Marotta
The Salem News

---- — The Salem Public Schools is excited to invite you to consider our Early Childhood Center for your preschooler. We provide a rich variety of activities and experiences in a flexible and pleasant atmosphere that introduces your preschooler to the exciting world of nature, art, science, math, social studies, language and music. Our curriculum is aligned with the Early Childhood Common Core State Standards and offers a solid foundation for future educational success.

Children are naturally joyful and curious and need to be given the time and space to be young children. Each child has the opportunity to grow at a developmentally appropriate pace, becoming a distinctive person while learning the skills to be a productive member of our community. In doing so, ECC students develop strong basic skills, the ability to work with others, a positive attitude about school, and the motivation and confidence needed to accomplish great things.

We want each child to find school a happy place where he or she will derive satisfaction from inventing, creating, discovering, practicing skills and taking responsibility, as well as meeting and solving problems in the presence of sensitive teaching. We consider the total child and provide experiences to encourage physical (gross and fine motor), social, emotional and intellectual development using the learning areas listed above. The teachers spend time helping the children play together, learning to share, using their words, beginning to take responsibility for their personal objects and becoming comfortable being away from home. In general, they are socialized to “life in a classroom.”

The center offers seven nurturing and fun integrated preschool classrooms for children with and without special needs. Each classroom is taught by a master’s-level teacher, is supported by a teacher’s assistant and enrolls up to 15 students. A variety of therapists spend time in each classroom working with all students in a fun and inclusive manner. Groups of students may practice yoga or engage in hand-strengthening exercises through the use of clay during time with our occupational therapist, or may sing, role-play and expand their vocabulary with our speech language pathologist. Additional support staff includes a board-certified behavioral analyst, a school social worker, an assistive technology specialist and more! Most classes run Monday through Thursday. There are two separate sessions (a morning session and an afternoon session), which run 21/2 hours each.

Slots for peer models are offered through a lottery process. Students must have turned 3 by Sept. 1, 2012, in order to enter the lottery. Financial assistance is available for those with proven need. The lottery process is open to all.

If you believe your 3-, 4- or 5-year-old may have a disability, please attend one of our preschool screenings. The screening process includes a brief interview with the parent and child, and a formal “assessment.” During the screening, children stay with their parents and are asked to complete a number of developmentally appropriate tasks. If you or the screening team has concerns, special education staff members will be available to answer your questions about further testing and next steps.

The Salem Public Schools staff looks forward to getting to know you and your child. We believe that our inclusive preschool program builds a lifelong foundation for learning, respecting human differences and nurturing friendships. We hope you will join us!

If you have any questions regarding the preschool program or the screening process, please feel free to call the preschool office at 978-740-1181.

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Margaret Marotta is assistant superintendent of pupil personnel services for the Salem Public Schools. This is one in a series of regular columns from the schools’ Community Advisory Board.