Forget calling it preschool, Red Bank Regional Superintendent Jim Stefankiewicz said, this is early freshman orientation.
On the Red Bank School District’s first day back at school, Stefankiewicz and his administration welcomed the new, pint-sized editions to the Little Silver high school: three and four-year-old preschoolers from the next town over.
As part of Red Bank’s goal to provide preschool to every single one of the borough’s three and four year olds – that’s about 345 children – the district has had to be creative about where it locates them. Without enough classroom space at schools in town, the borough has looked elsewhere. One of those places happens to be Red Bank Regional, where four preschool classes will be taught this year.
“It’s another example of the districts working together, which is what we need to do,” Stefankiewicz said.
As , many of Red Bank’s preschool-aged children will be educated outside of town. In addition to Little Silver, there are also classes in Middletown and Tinton Falls. The entire preschool program is funded by the state to the tune of $4.079 million, which includes funding for classroom space and transportation out of district.
The partnership with Red Bank Regional is the result of discussions and planning over the past two years, Red Bank Superintendent Laura Morana said Thursday.
While space in the district has been all booked up, it turns out that Red Bank Regional had a classroom opening. A pair of small buildings at the rear of the high school campus had been largely unused for the past few years, Stefankiewicz said, and while ideas of converting the space into labs or a fitness center circulated, the best idea, it seemed, was to keep them as classrooms. So, the next step was to find students to fill them.
“For the most part they were vacant,” he said, noting that the buildings were most recently used for AP testing. “We had some ideas about how to use them, but this was just a perfect fit.”
Morana said she's not concerned about the students being sent out of the district for early education. There's a larger goal here, she said.
"We just had to find room," she said. "It's just been a collaborative effort.
"There is a small period of adjustment, but the childen are just great, they get used to it quickly."