The Pre-Kindergarten, or “PreK” program at St. James Academy exemplifies the school’s multisensory approach to learning, allowing four years olds to begin their citizenship within the greater school community. “We see our PreK program not as a separate ‘preschool,’” says Maureen Walsh, Interim Head of School at St. James Academy, “but as the first step in their educational journey with us through eighth grade.” The school offers both half and full-day programs.
The decision to provide a half-day program came from taking into consideration the needs of their parent population and providing the necessary flexibility to serve the parent population best. “Knowing children (as we do), we believe some children are not ready for a full day,” says Katie Wareheim, Director of Admission & Enrollment Management. “Providing the half-day option reflects our understanding of what some children need to be successful.”
Lori Dembo, Lower School Head, notes the PreK students are excited to be part of the school, and even look forward to wearing the uniform. “The students like being part of a community larger than themselves,” she notes. Parents and school staff share her excitement about the PreK program, as it is reflective of the school’s commitment to nurturing the whole child. “It such a good fit for us as well as our families,” Dembo adds.
A typical, fun day in PreK has students starting their day in the gym running and playing to expel some energy so they can come into the classroom ready to learn. “We know students at this age need to move and be active,” says Lori. “We love that about the students and want to enrich that time.” The day then starts with “circle time,” where students meet and learn in a circle, followed by a quiet book, an activity and more outside time. PreK students spend their day in activities spent in 15-20 minutes increments, which fits their educational and developmental needs.
PreK students also enjoy the same extracurricular activities as the rest of the student body, such as foreign languages, physical education, art, library and music. The small class size of about 10-12 students along with a teacher and a teaching assistant for each class means PreK students at St. James Academy enjoy a fun, nurturing environment in which to begin, and most importantly, enjoy the start of their educational career at the school.