How do you handle the separation process?
We know each child will separate at a different pace, and that typically it takes younger children longer to feel comfortable in the new classroom environment. Therefore, we have a gentle phase-in schedule, which varies by class:
During phase-in, children come to school in small groups that gradually build to the full class. The length of the day starts shorter, about 30-40-minute visits, and gradually builds to the full day.
In years when we’re able to invite adults into the school, parents will drop off in the classroom on the first day, and then move into the reception area when their child is more comfortable, and finally leave the building when their child is ready for his/her independence at school.
This year, parents dropped children off outside to their teachers. To help ease this process, teachers met with families on Zoom prior to school, provided virtual classroom tours, and sent home stories/activities for students to do at home before school began. If we find a child is having an especially hard time, we are able to have his/her grown-up inside the building as an essential visitor for a short time.
What are the teachers’ qualifications? What is the student: teacher ratio?
Each lead teacher is state-certified and either holds a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education or a related field, or is anticipating receipt of a master’s degree as per the NYC DOHMH study plan arrangement. All assistant teachers hold bachelor’s degrees and are pursuing related fields of study. Teacher-to-child ratios are maintained at higher levels than those required by the NYC DOHMH. The below table shows city requirements vs. Columbus Pre-School standards for ratio:
|Age of children||DOMHM Teacher: Student Ratio||Columbus Teacher: Student Ratio|
Is Columbus Pre-School an ISAAGNY member?
We have great respect for ISAAGNY and great relationships with its member schools, but we are not a member. Though much of the admissions process is identical, we prefer to offer our applicants a bit more flexibility on admissions dates/deadlines, so choose not to adhere to ISAAGNY rules.
How do you form classes? Do you mix ages?
We group children in classes of peers who are closer in age, and try to keep as even a balance as possible between boys and girls. While children grow socially, emotionally, and cognitively at different speeds, there are certain materials and activities that are developmentally appropriate by age. As such, teachers provide those that each child can explore at his or her level, while ultimately helping children reach age-related developmental milestones.
Are there cutoffs for each age group/class?
We don’t have strict cutoffs like many schools (typically Sept 1) for each program, and really mold our classes each year based on our student composition, and place children in groups that are right for them developmentally and that meet their family’s needs. For example, a younger 3 might be very verbal and ready for a more social group, so we may recommend a 5-day program versus a 3-day program. This is a process each family is involved in for their children.
How does curriculum vary by age?
While our curriculum is emergent, we do work toward social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones in each age group. Beyond academic elements like math, science, literacy, and writing, samples of key curricular components are as follows:
- 2s: With our youngest children, teachers work on separation (developing trust and comfort), language development (expressive and receptive) and social awareness (being an individual who is part of a class/school community).
- 3s: Social and language development continue to be the focus for learning, but we also work on developing skills such as patience (taking turns), focused attention (meeting times and listening to longer stories), fine motor control (holding paint brushes, cutting with scissors, drawing with different writing materials). We introduce students to pre-literacy through Sounds in Motion.
- 4s: In addition to all the curricular elements in the 3s program, we spend more time on math and literacy to help prepare the children for kindergarten. The children keep daily journals, where they will draw and eventually write stories. They learn about letters as they brainstorm words for letter of the day and learn how to properly form each letter. Numbers are mastered as they create a number chart that keeps track of how many days they have been at school, write the date for our daily calendar, and create number sentences daily for snack. Literacy activities and math activities are part of the weekly schedule. We employ Handwriting Without Tears to aid in learning and literacy, pre-reading and pre-writing skills.
5s: Our 5s are ready to take on the world! During this exciting year, we work on developing strategies that help them with beginning reading skills and efficiencies in mathematics. They are given more opportunities to use approximate spelling as they sound out words to write stories during Writer’s Workshop, write messages to leave in each other’s class mailboxes, as well as create signs for the classroom. We talk with the children about what you can do if you are feeling stuck while working independently or with others and come up with ways that allow them to push through challenges. Teachers will help students grow confident in their abilities, develop a sense of responsibility for personal belongings and class materials, and will provide students with opportunities to practice being empathetic, kind, and considerate. These are just some examples of important foundational skills (beyond academics) we work on building in each student as they prepare for life beyond Columbus Pre-School.
Do you have priority in your admissions process?
Yes, we offer priority status to siblings and legacy applicants. However, we want to make sure that Columbus Pre-School is the right fit for each child and there are some cases in which we see a sibling who would benefit from a different type of school program. We also offer priority admissions to those families who indicate that Columbus Pre-School is their first choice. For all students with priority status, we extend early notice of acceptance.
How will my child be prepared for kindergarten? How do you help families with the exmissions process?
In addition to the ever-evolving emergent curriculum that guides daily class, teachers incorporate literacy, writing, math, and science activities into the class schedule to ensure our students are more than prepared for kindergarten.
Our admissions team begins working with each family in the spring before their child enters the 4s program at Columbus Pre-School and continues working on a one-on-one basis throughout the entire exmissions process. We will help parents navigate through the kindergarten admissions process whether they are looking for private or public school. We also hire outside consultants for additional seminars and live updates of dates, deadlines, and procedures. Please see our “Closer Look at Exmissions” guide for more information.
How involved are parents?
As involved as they choose to be! Parents are always welcome to visit the classroom as mystery reader, to cook or bake, share a special skill (musical instrument), or anything else! This year, we’ve been able to continue these visits virtually!
We have a Parents Association that organizes schoolwide events like fundraisers and community drives/projects. The head PAs oversee our volunteer class parents that help organize class events like playdates and parents’ nights out. As a school, we usually have (at least) a parents’ cocktail night, school picnic, and annual Art Show.
What is the communication between school and home like?
Teachers are always available via email or to set up phone or Zoom meetings. Teachers will send short updates daily, which we call conversation starters. These are suggested questions parents can ask their children about something particular they did in school that day. Many children are shy to talk about school, so having this relevant detail helps facilitate a nice talk each evening! These updates may be in the form of an activity description, video or photos. In addition, we’ll post recipes, song lyrics, curricular updates and important reminders so that parents have a real glimpse into their child’s life at school. Please see our “Communication and Parent Involvement” guide for more information.
Does my child have to be potty-trained?
Because children develop differently, and our youngest are just 2, we do not expect that children will enter school potty trained. This is an individual journey for every child and family and we will work with you when the time feels right to begin potty training. Teachers will figure out how to best replicate what you’re doing at home and work with your children to do the same at school.
What is snack/lunch like at school?
Typically, snack is communal, building community around sharing food, opinions, likes and dislikes. Snack is historically both school-provided and parent-volunteered. We often bake and cook in class (or have a parent join for this). This year, we aren’t doing that for safety reasons, so all snack/lunch is provided individually from home to limit handling. We’re a nut-aware school, meaning no nut products can be served at school, nor anything processed in a facility that also processes tree nuts. Individual allergies are handled on a case-by-case basis depending on severity, and classes may or may not have classroom restrictions.