To the editor:
The discussion of the Salem public schools is a disheartening one. We’ve seen letters to the editor from the mayor, former mayors, the head of the teachers union, former Salem educators, graduates of the Salem school system and a school board member. I am certain there are more than I have recalled here. Each letter has been one of asking for change or asking for faith.
I am writing because I want to ask for both.
In these conversations and letters, there is one significant area of the Salem Public Schools that has been sorely overlooked, and it is probably the best-kept secret of the Salem Public School: the Salem Early Childhood Center, housed in Bentley Elementary School.
This program is a traditional preschool program (though you’ll notice the word “school” doesn’t appear in its name as it’s a learn-through-play model of education developmentally appropriate for 3- and four-year-old children that also serves the youngest members of Salem’s special education population, taking in 3-year-olds who have aged out of early intervention. The center also conducts developmental screenings so that parents concerned that their young children may be on a different developmental path than typical may contact the center for an evaluation to determine service eligibility. Qualifying children can receive speech, occupational and physical therapy services, to name a few.
The Salem Early Childhood Center deserves accolades from our school board and city government for its amazing work. My own child has been a recipient of this amazing program for developmental supports he required, but children do not have to have special needs to benefit from this program. In fact, the children who attend the Early Childhood Center who do not require special education services benefit equally as much in school preparedness and love of learning as those there for special education reasons.