After announcing it had received a preschool expansion grant on Oct. 18, the Cherry Hill school district held an information night for the community to review basic information about the program and answer questions from the community.
The late November session was both in-person and virtual, with district administrators, board of education members, the principal of Malberg Early Childhood Education Center and the district transportation supervisor available to explain the expansion. The format was chosen to allow for more dialogue than usual at a regular board meeting.
The district received a grant of $3,517,615 that will finance expansion of the preschool universe by working with provider sites and adding more physical classrooms. That means eight additional preschool classrooms at Kilmer Elementary School and eight at Malberg, in addition to bathroom renovations. The grant will also fund several new hires.
Parents will not be able to self-select private providers when applying for the preschool program; students will be assigned to schools based on proximity and enrollment in a provider site. Those sites must adhere to district policies and procedures, curriculum, teaching certification requirements, teacher/student/educational assistant ratio and a six-hour day.
There will be an open house at each provider site before the start of the preschool program in January.
Current private providers that will work with the district include:
- Clockwise Learning Center in Cherry Hill: one classroom, 15 students
- Discovery Corner Child Care, Cherry Hill: three classrooms, 45 students
- Family Matters Child Care, Morris County: two classrooms, 30 students
- Mosaic Early Learning Child Development and Preschool/Head Start, Oaklyn: four classrooms, 60 students
Transportation will be provided by the district. Details for the 2024-’25 school year enrollment process have yet to be finalized, but currently attending 3-year-olds will automatically be enrolled as 4-year-olds next year. The goal is to meet the needs of 90% of the preschool population – all eligible 3- and 4-year olds – within five years of receiving the grant.
New hires funded by the grant will include a community parent involvement specialist, social worker, fiscal specialist, transportation router, registration secretary, nurse, preschool supervisor, preschool intervention and referral specialist and a preschool instructional coach.
Malberg Principal Danyelle Edwards explained more about operation of the provider sites during the board meeting’s Q&A. She noted that before employees are hired at the sites, providers submit the applicant’s information to the district human resources department, where it is vetted to make sure the applicant has a background check and proper certification before hiring.
“The preschool supervisor, myself and Assistant Superintendent Dr. (Farah) Mahan will be regularly visiting the provider sites,” Edwards revealed.
She clarified that the preschool intervention and referral specialist will act as a coach to support staff in the implementation of student social and emotional support and instruction and as a preschool instructional coach who will visit the private provider sites regularly to ensure curriculum implementation.
“There will be heavy oversight from our district,” Edwards reiterated. “There will be a constant present of district employees at the provider sites.”
The full board presentation can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnPInD4OAmE.