Changes coming to preschool program


NAUGATUCK — School officials plan to overhaul the district’s early childhood education program next year to make a more inclusive environment for all children.

Traditionally, pupils in the federally funded Head Start program for income eligible families were in different classrooms than those in the School Readiness program, which receives state funding and is for children in higher income brackets. Children whose families pay the full amount are also in the School Readiness program.

Additionally, students in special education programs are in their own classrooms.

Come next year, however, income eligibility will not determine what classrooms pupils are in. Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke is working on a plan that will make one early childhood education center at Central Avenue School, where the program is currently located.

The cost to run the program will actually about $38,000 cheaper it is this year, according to the Board of Education.

The new plan will include reducing the number of staff members at the school, but people in those positions will be offered other jobs within the district, the board says.

The goal, Locke said, is to have one program where all children are learning under the same roof.

“We want to create a culture where all kids are attending the same school and walk into the building but nobody really knows — and nobody really needs to know — which program you are in,” she said. “Right now, there are separate doors for the separate programs, and we want to eliminate that.”

Pupils who need to learn in self-contained classrooms will still be in those rooms, Locke said.

The longtime former head of the Naugatuck preschool program, Jan Mons, retired in the fall, presenting an opportunity for the district to reorganize and put a new leader in the building who would oversee the entire facility, Locke said.

Currently, the district is seeking someone to fill that early childhood coordinator role.

Administrator Laura Klimaszewski, assistant director of special services, is overseeing the school now. The reorganization plan will allow her to work with all schools, not just Central Avenue, Locke said.

This year, there are 148 pupils in the preschool program.