Preschool programs at home at Central Avenue

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Naugatuck’s preschool programs are now housed in Central Avenue School. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — The borough’s preschool programs have settled in nicely to their new home.

Central Avenue Preschool now houses the preschool, which is under the jurisdiction of the borough’s Board of Education and is a service for children with special needs, the Head Start Program, and the School Readiness Program. Approximately 150 students are in the programs.

Central Avenue Preschool Principal Laura Klimaszewski explained that the move to Central Avenue feels more permanent than the school’s previous home in Prospect Street School.

“What I’m really excited about is that it feels like this is going to be more of a permanent home for our preschool,” Klimaszewski said.

Head Start and School Readiness Director Janice Mons echoed Klimaszewski’s sentiments.

“I think we have found a home,” Mons said.

The conversion of Central Avenue School as an elementary school to a preschool was approved by the board this spring during budget preparations as a way to save money. Central Avenue’s former students were redistricted to other elementary schools throughout the district.

Klimaszewski said a few of the planned changes that make Central Avenue feel more permanent are the prospect of having a playground built, which the children did not have a Prospect Street School, and turning the fenced in area into a student drop-off area for parents. The preschool program buses its students in, but Head Start and School Readiness do not.

The other improvement that makes the move more lasting is the fact that Central Avenue is handicapped accessible.

“Our building is completely handicapped accessible, but right now we are only on the main floor of this building. None of our preschoolers are downstairs, but we do have an elevator in this building if we needed to get to the lower level,” Klimaszewski explained.

One of the reasons that the preschool moved out of Prospect Street School was because that school was not handicapped accessible. According to figures presented by the board this spring, it would have cost approximately $300,000 to put an elevator into the school to make it handicap accessible.

However, it is not just the structural upgrades that make this school feel like a stable home to Klimaszewski.

“We were able to get gym, music, and art over here. So our preschoolers are being exposed to that, which is a really nice thing. We also have a music therapist that comes and does really nice things with music and the children, especially with our autistic population,” Klimaszewski said.

Klimaszewski said even before the school opened the teachers were getting ready for the new school year.

“The teachers did phenomenal work this summer. Everybody comes in on their own time and sets up their own classrooms … and the classrooms look fantastic,” Klimaszewski said.

Both Klimaszewski and Mons felt that when the school year started Aug. 29 the students adjusted to the new school flawlessly.

“The kids were ready to go. Really, the kids stepped in without missing a beat. We weren’t sure how much it would throw them, being in a different facility, and it really didn’t. They came in [Aug. 29] with smiles on, we had very few tears,” Klimaszewski said. “The kids were really, good. They just came in, like we didn’t even miss a beat.”

Mons explained that her kids came into the school as if they had been there all year.

Mons and Klimaszewski were also happy to keep the arrangement, which began three years ago at Prospect Street School, of all the preschool programs being in the same building together.

“It’s so nice being all together under one roof. We can do all kinds of things working together,” Mons said.