Nursery school, MDES eye pre-K partnership

MOUNT DESERT — Mount Desert Elementary School (MDES) plans to partner with Mount Desert Nursery School to offer a free pre-kindergarten program at the nursery school for 4-year-olds who live in the town.

MDES had been planning to start its own pre-K program next fall. But after meeting with the nursery school’s board, MDES Principal Gloria Delsandro and Julie Meltzer, who is the school system’s director of curriculum, assessment and instruction, agreed that a joint program would be a better option.

Delsandro told the Mount Desert school committee last Wednesday that it would be possible for MDES to physically accommodate a pre-K program.

“But it would not be ideal,” she said. “We have rooms that are dedicated to (other programs) now. We’re using all of our space, and the thought of being able to have our pre-K down at the nursery school is [appealing].”

Under the proposed agreement, which would require formal approval of the MDES and nursery school boards, the nursery school would hire a certified pre-K teacher and an ed tech. MDES would pay for their salaries and benefits and provide transportation for any pre-K students who need it.

The proposed MDES budget for next year includes $180,532 for pre-K, which would cover the cost for 16 Mount Desert students.

If MDES filled only 12 slots, for example, Westphal said the nursery school would hold two slots for Mount Desert children who might come in later in the year and open two slots to children from other towns. But MDES would only pay for 4-year-olds who live in Mount Desert.

Westphal said the nursery school would continue to have two teachers for children under 4, but the two groups of children would be together much of the time.

The pre-K students would have 10 hours a week of instruction, as the state requires.

“But a lot of their play would be together, and I think everybody would benefit from that,” Westphal said.

She said she likes the idea of having the pre-K program at the nursery school rather than at the larger MDES, where she is the art teacher.

“With my mom hat on and my educator hat on, I think having pre-K in a smaller space is better for kids,” she said.

Maine does not mandate that schools provide pre-K education, but the Department of Education encourages it.

“Some parents might not realize that this is more than just day care,” school committee member Kate Chaplin said, “This is actual preparation for kindergarten, and I think we really need to get that message out.”

Delsandro discussed the proposed pre-K program with the Board of Selectmen on Monday after presenting an overview of MDES’s proposed budget for next year, which includes funding for pre-K. Board members indicated strong support.

“In my estimation, for 16 students, 180 grand is cheap money for a good program,” Selectman Rick Mooers said. “That’s a sweet deal.”

Emphasizing the value of a pre-K education, Delsandro said, “When you provide pre-K, you’re providing magic, [especially] for families that can’t afford this type of programming. Their kids are going to be loved and welcomed and cared for, and they’re going to blossom and be more successful.”




Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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