Pre-Kindergarten Program Up and Running in Barnegat

Jan 09, 2019

The Barnegat Township School District began the new year by opening its free pre-kindergarten program, which was established through a $4.3 million Preschool Education Extension Grant through the New Jersey Department of Education. Dan Gunderson, the district’s director of special services, said 250 students are enrolled. Programs take place at all four elementary schools as well as the Learning Ladder, a local private facility from which the district leases space.

The preschool is staffed with 24 teachers and 24 para-professionals. Gunderson said the grant will cover employees’ salaries, supplies and various other miscellaneous expenses. The district does not have to reapply for the grant each year, but is required to outline a three- to five-year plan that needs to be approved by the department of education to have funding continued..

Jennifer Froelich, district early childhood supervisor, said the program uses the Creative Curriculum for Preschool, which she said is a comprehensive, scientifically based, research-tested curriculum, linked to an assessment system that addresses teachers’ need to know what to teach and why and how children learn best. 

“It is a New Jersey Department of Education-approved curriculum,” said Froelich. “Its distinguishing features are a framework for decision making and a focus of interest areas.”

She said the curriculum balances both teacher-directed and child-initiated learning with an emphasis on responding to children’s learning styles and building on their strengths and interests.

“It specifies the literacy, math, science, social studies, arts and technology content to be taught, based on published standards,” she said. “It relates directly to the subject area curricula used in elementary schools, so children’s learning in preschool forms the basis of all of the learning that will follow. It provides clear guidance on the teacher’s role in addressing content in literacy, math, science, social studies, the arts and technology, yet never loses sight of the primary importance of social/emotional development in children’s learning.” 

Froelich said the children, age 3 and 4, are in class for six hours a day, spending the whole time in the same room.

“The area is made up of various stations, which could be art, music, language arts, math and other subjects,” she said. 

District Superintendent Brain Latwis said the program has gone “amazingly well.”

“We only had about eight weeks to put this whole program together, so it took an awful lot of work in such a short time. This is a big undertaking, and we would not have been able to accomplish it  without the cooperation of our staff.”

— Eric Englund

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