Full Day Pre-K in East Newark October 1 – The Observer Online
Starting this fall term, East Newark Public Schools will offer a full-time preschool for the first time in the district’s history, said the school’s chief administrator, Richard Corbett.
Corbett said the district runs a part-time preschool program for 15 children ages 3 and 4, but now with the help of a $ 337,039 grant for “high-quality preschool” funding from the Ministry of Education. State Education, it may extend to a full-time operation.
East Newark is one of 19 school districts – and the only one in Hudson County – to share a total of $ 17 million awarded statewide for the 2021-2022 school year as part of the pledge from Governor Philip D. Murphy to provide universal pre-K to all New Jersey families over the next several years.
Corbett said availability of the grant is conditional on starting the full-day program by October 1.
Corbett, who has listed a full day of pre-K as one of his goals for the 2021-2022 school year, said the plan was to have two classes, one at Borough School on North Third Street and a second at Holy Cross School. at Harrison.
The district currently welcomes students in grades 6 to 8 at Holy Cross under an annual rental agreement with the building owner, the Archdiocese of Newark. He now plans to build on that arrangement by renting an additional basement classroom at the old Catholic school to handle the pre-K kids full-time, Corbett said.
This 1,200 square foot basement space was previously used as a library by Holy Cross when this school was still in operation. There will be two bathrooms available for preschoolers. District staff painted and did what Corbett described as minor renovations to prepare the space for classroom use.
“We are also installing a camera and a sound system,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Borough School runs the other pre-K class and grades K through 4.
Corbett’s office and staff have moved to the first floor of Holy Cross where the children who now occupy 10 third-floor classrooms have access to a full-size gymnasium / auditorium for exercise and lunch – a big improvement by compared to the cramped space of the basement which doubled a small gymnasium and a dining room at the school of the borough.
(Due to the age of the Holy Cross School building – it was opened in 1915 – it is exempt from the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act, Corbett said. It does not have an elevator. At this day, he said, none of the East Newark youth attending classes there have physical disabilities that prevent them from climbing a stairwell to the third floor.)
“The kids, their parents and our teachers all love this place,” said Corbett, referring to their home away from home in Holy Cross. “Kids can use a full-size gym in a space that doubles as an auditorium with a stage and cafeteria. Plus we have air conditioning which they never had before due to the age of the district school which was built in 1919.
Corbett said the district would enroll up to 30 preschoolers, with two classes accommodating up to 15.
Corbett said he would need to find “an experienced pre-K teacher and assistant” to assign to the Holy Cross class. And while most school jobs are now stranded in the state, with the fall term having already started, Corbett is confident he can fill those positions.
Meanwhile, the existing Borough School teacher and assistant are being retained to manage the full-day pre-K session, he said.
The state grant will help the district pay for new employees, a pre-K response team, new furniture and teaching materials, he said.
Corbett praised the Borough Education Council for being “very supportive” of the grant application process to make the full day of pre-K a reality.
Another “first” occurred in the fall of 2020, noted Corbett, when the state’s DOE designated it as a “high performing district” based on a review of school staff, school governance, financial management, instruction and programs / operations.