In October 2018, the South Orange–Maplewood School District received a grant from the State of New Jersey to offer preschool education services at no cost to all interested Maplewood and South Orange residents. Prior to that, the District offered an integrated regular and special education preschool program for a number of years. The program shifted from Jefferson Elementary to South Mountain Elementary to Marshall Elementary before finding a permanent home at the Montrose Early Childhood Center (MECC).
At the start of the 2018-2019 school year and with the appointment of a new principal, Ms. Bonita Samuels, the program was ready to move forward. The grant posed the opportunity to expand the program, and with appointed Interim Assistant Superintendent of Special Services, Dr. Laura Morana, the District was now in a position to further advance the preschool program to address the needs of the early childhood population throughout the District.
With the opening of the 2019 registration season, the District received over 100 new applicants interested in enrolling children in the preschool program. To meet that need, the District met with private preschool programs in the immediate area to develop partnerships in an effort to expand the program. 2018-2019 school year, the District partnered with Applecore Learning, a preschool in Maplewood, as an additional Pre-K classroom site. In addition, a full-time Preschool Supervisor was hired to assist in expansion efforts, recruitment, contract development, and overall program management for the District’s preschool program.
The District’s preschool program received applications from 108 students in February 2019. Through a lottery system, all 108 applicants were offered a seat in the program between May and September 2019. Demand for preschool placements continued with the opening of the 2019-2020 school year. In response, the District held another lottery in November to seat applicants in available slots opening up in December 2019. Thus far, of the fifty-five students who were part of the November lottery, thirty-two have been seated and are beginning school this month.
As we enter a new decade, we will continue to seek additional partnerships to meet the growing need of parents in our District. The South Orange & Maplewood Universal Preschool Program continues to grow and is currently housed across four sites: Montrose Early Childhood Center, Marshall Elementary, Applecore Learning, and Zadie’s of the Oranges.
- Effective January 13, we will have a new partner, LaPetite Academy
- For more information on the Preschool Education program