I thought I was getting a late start on nursery school, but as it turns out I’m not as behind as I thought. However, if you have a child over 3 and are also just starting your search now, the situation is more competitive. Creative Beginnings and Children’s House have enough returning students that they have a very limited number of spots for their oldest pre-K groups; Children’s House actually canceled its open house so it wouldn’t have to turn people away. Luckily there are plenty of spots in the 2 1/2 year old classes because these are all new students. That could be good news for me–oh, and my toddler, too.
My first nursery school visit was to Community Montessori Academy at 23 South Prospect Street behind Calvary Lutheran Church. Neither of my two older children participated in a Montessori program, so this was all new to me. The classroom is designed to teach children based on their level of development rather than follow a curriculum determined by educators. At CMA, the daily program is often driven by the childrens’ strengths and interests and at their pace. The school encourages, and in my opinion thrives on, an atmosphere of peaceful trust, grace and courtesy shared by both the teachers and the children.
Now for the nuts and bolts:
School Days/Hours: Incoming students can participate in either half or full day programs. For the 2 1/2-3 year olds, there are two-day (Tues/Thurs), three-day (Mon/Weds/Fri) or five-day programs available. A half day runs either from 8:45-11:15 or 12:45-3:15. a full day is from 8:45-3-3:15 and includes a nap if necessary. There are also early-care, lunch, enrichment and after-care programs available, which are billed in addition to the regular tuition. In my experience a 3-day program is a great way to start and really get the kids comfortable with their new school environment, teachers and future friends.
Payment: Tuition can be paid either in full at the time of registration, in half (with payments in June and December) or monthly. There is a discount for paying in full or paying twice a year. Tuition rates are: $9,600 for 5 full days or $4,710 for 5 half days. $8,490 for 3 full days or $4,150 for 3 half days. $7,440 for 2 full days or $3,620 for 2 half days. Additionally, there is a $75 application fee which includes an interview with your child. Something not all schools do.
Class Size: There is one 2 1/2 year old class with approximately 4 children per teacher. There are two 3-6 year old classes with approximately 18 children per 2 teachers. Among the teachers there is always 1 Montessori-certified teacher and 2 assistant Montessori-trained teachers.
Special Programs: During the school year, CMA offers Music Together every Wednesday. This program is fully funded by a school fundraiser dinner in November and every child participates. In the summer, CMA offers a summer camp for both incoming and returning students. Summer camp can be a great way to introduce incoming students to the school atmosphere with all the fun of the outdoor playground and plenty of water play. Sounds like a good idea to me! Information about the camp is made available in March.
Snacks/Food: I’ve been to schools with parent-provided and school-provided snacks. Each has benefits and CMA does a little of both. As the parent of a child with food allergies, I was interested to learn that nut-free snacks are provided, an allergy list is distributed to each classroom, and a list of acceptable snacks is welcomed in the school.
My favorite things about this school are that children help drive the curriculum, and there’s a three-day option, summer camp, and food allergy awareness. The teachers will change diapers for the younger children and encourage what ever potty-training practices are happening at home. The 8:45 start time works well for me as my older children start school by 8:30. Personally, I would prefer at least 2 days in a row for a 3-day program for the youngest students. I’ll have more thoughts on Verona’s other nursery schools soon.[mappress]