Board approves revamped preschool program

The Wilton Board of Education unanimously approved the proposed revamping of Miller-Driscoll’s preschool program during its April 6 meeting.

The preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds underwent a name change — from Wilton Preschool Services to the Miller-Driscoll Early Learning Center — and will offer an “inclusive preschool experience” Monday through Friday from 9 to 1:15, beginning next school year.

According to a presentation put together by Miller-Driscoll’s preschool planning committee, students with age-appropriate skills and those with identified special education needs will learn together in a challenging and supportive learning environment, designed to foster “kind, inclusive and socially responsible students” through personalized learning experiences.

Planning committee

After “a lot of research” and “a lot of visits to other preschool programs,” Miller-Driscoll preschool coordinator Bernadette Hess told The Bulletin in February, she and other members of the preschool planning committee recommended preschool program changes to the district’s administrative team.

“We looked at the best options for continuity for children, as well as parents,” she said.

“The committee did a lot of work. All the way through, we shared our information with Ann Paul [assistant superintendent of special services], and then when we came up with recommendations and brought it to the cabinet level, we got their input.”

In addition to Hess, preschool planning committee members include:

  • Patty Terranova, preschool executive secretary.

  • Sharon DeAngelo, assistant director of special services.

  • Kathy Coon, Miller-Driscoll principal.

  • Ashley Krauss, parent.

  • Tara Vercellone, occupational therapist.

  • Adrienne Matta, school psychologist.

  • Karen Farber, speech-language pathologist.

  • Melissa Feige, preschool teacher.

The committee — which formed in September and began officially meeting in November — was charged with taking a look at what’s working in the current preschool program and what needs work, Coon told The Bulletin in February, “and then developing recommendations around some of the things that we needed to work on.”

Program changes

For the last several years, Miller-Driscoll has offered half-day and full-day preschool programs at a cost of $4,000 and $6,500, respectively. The new preschool program would eliminate all half-day options.

As of January, Miller-Driscoll had 41 students enrolled in its preschool program, according to Coon, noting that preschool enrollment changes due to rolling admission.

Miller-Driscoll currently has three preschool classrooms, each of which has one classroom teacher and two paraprofessionals. There is also a “floating” paraprofessional on staff, said Hess.

An additional classroom would be added for the new program. Each class would have one teacher certified in both regular and special education, as well as two trained professional assistants.

As of Feb. 7, 22 typical students and “potentially” 21 students with special needs were signed up for next year’s preschool program, said Hess. As with current enrollment numbers, Coon said, that number will also change.

With an expected range of 12 to 15 students per class and $7,000 tuition, the new  preschool program would bring in at least $336,000 to $420,000.

The program would also have an option for 4-year-olds to stay until 3:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an additional $1,000.

Enrollment permitting, said Hess, “we’re hoping to expand to have additional classes and utilize the space that was built here.”

The Miller-Driscoll Early Learning Center will have sensory motor centers in its classrooms that include shaving cream, Play-Doh, water and rice tables, bikes, scooter boards, trampolines, and room for crawling and jumping activities.

There will also be a multipurpose room, featuring obstacle courses and Smart Boards for whole-group motor activities.

A typical day at the learning center starts with tabletop activities at 9, followed by a morning meeting at 9:30 and 30 minutes of music, art and physical education activities beginning at 10.

Thirty-minute snack time begins around 10:30, followed by 15 minutes of independent reading. At 11:15, preschoolers head outside for 30 minutes of playtime on the school’s new preschool playground, which includes tunnels, slides, swings, bikes, and space for running games.

Outdoor play is followed by 15 minutes of group story time, then arts and crafts, dramatic play, and sensory/fine motor activities at noon. Lunch takes place at 12:30, and by 1, it’s time for cleanup and dismissal.

Click here to learn more about the Miller-Driscoll Early Learning Center.