The Caldwell-West Caldwell School District recently announced that applications for its new Integrated Preschool Program (IPS) are now available. The program, available for morning or afternoon sessions, runs five days a week and is limited to fifteen students per session.
Held at Harrison School in West Caldwell, students accepted into the program will benefit from a state-approved curriculum that focuses on a full array of social and academic skills. The IPS program incorporates the education of general education preschoolers with preschoolers who have been found eligible for special education. Students with special needs are placed in the class as determined by the District’s IEP team.
“This program is something that our families have been asking for,” said Director of Special Services Paul Palozzola. “Now, the timing, need and demand have all fallen into place. We are excited to be able to bring this program to our towns.”
Unlike a traditional pre-kindergarten program, the IPS focuses on a wider range of skills, including motor skills, social skills, technology infusion, and social speech, integrating students with special needs into classes with their typically developing peers.
Research has shown that for children with special needs, there are many benefits to an integrated learning environment. Regardless of their ability level, kids learn from one another. In an integrated classroom, children with special needs have the opportunity to observe typically developing children, who serve as positive role models by demonstrating the skills that the teachers and therapists are trying to teach.
For children with typical abilities, some obvious benefits of an integrated classroom include learning tolerance, developing empathy and gaining an appreciation for diversity. Another advantage is the presence of a wide variety of professionals, which leads to very high teacher-student ratios. This allows every child in the classroom to receive personal attention and assessment, including the typically developing kids.
“The class size is limited to fifteen students and there will be two teachers in the classroom, so every student will benefit,” said Superintendent Dr. James Heinegg. “Providing these students with this level and type of education at such a young age will benefit all of them throughout their school years, and hopefully beyond.”
Added Palozzola, “We want our students to grow into adults who lead independent and satisfying lives. The real world is a diverse mix of people with a wide range of abilities. The sooner we start preparing these young individuals for that, the better.”
Applications for general education students will be accepted until Mon., April 18, at 3 p.m. If the number of applications exceeds the available space, accepted students will be selected by a lottery. Parents will be notified of acceptance into the IPS program by Mon., April 25. The program is $400 per month. Students who qualify for free or reduced lunch are eligible for reduced tuition rates. Applications are available on the district website at www.cwcboe.org/preschool.
For more information on the pre-school programs offered by the Caldwell-West Caldwell School District, visit www.cwcboe.org/harrison.