Preschool program overwhelmed with applications

Grant sought by Monroe Township to open more spots

The Monroe Township preschool program has received 300 applications for just 44 spots, and the school district is now seeking a grant that will enable it to grow enrollment.

“I think [the program] is giving children two years’ worth of high-quality instruction before even getting into kindergarten,” said Superintendent Dr. Susan Ficke. “Research says students play to learn, so to be able to introduce them at 3 years old really sets them up in a position that is good for kindergarten … Students need to feel safe to learn and a preschool environment helps them with that.” 

Families in Monroe can apply for children ages 3 and 4 to be part of the free preschool program. Applications must be turned in by June 16 and each student will be chosen through a lottery process. The 44 winners of the lottery so far will be announced on June 23; other families will be placed on a waiting list. 

The approved families will be asked to go online and complete their registration through PowerSchool by July 14. After that date, failure to complete registration will result in another family gaining the seat. 

“From June 24 to July 14, we will make sure that we have constant communication with those families,” Ficke announced. “We feel it is important to communicate so people don’t think we are just giving their seats away. I want to work with them; if they need to come in, we will certainly help them as part of the process.”

The budget for the 2021-2022 school year will help the district offer three preschool classes at Oak Knoll Elementary, and move the Preschool Disabled Program at Radix Elementary from half day to full day.

“We are doing this through our own funds,” Ficke explained. “I have made a commitment that giving students two years’ worth of high-quality instruction is critically important, especially if they are going to be our students.”

Although the district has adjusted its budget to offer more seats for students, officials  still hope to receive a preschool expansion aid grant later this summer that would allow them to offer more classes and open more seats for the upcoming year. 

“We are really excited to be able to offer this to families,” Ficke noted. “We know it is starting small, but the fact that we are able to leverage our existing budget to be able to offer preschool to our 3- to 4-year-olds is really exciting … and to be able to offer more time for our special needs students is really great.”

To help with the preschool expansion, the district is moving offices from the Maple Grove building into the Saybrook facility to gain more space at the latter for growing class numbers.

“There have been blueprints drawn up to move Maple Grove over to Saybrook,” said Ficke. “Classrooms would fit nicely, because there are seven sections in the back of the building that could be retrofitted for preschool …

“Maple Grove is falling apart,” she added, “and we don’t need to put more money into it.  Moving to Saybrook will help with the expansion of the preschool program.”

For more information about applying for the preschool program, visit https://monroetwp.k12.nj.us