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– QNS.com

A new Universal Pre-K has recently opened in the Woodhaven community.

All that is left of this former historic church in Woodhaven are the corner stones as Christ Congregational Church gets a total renovation for the newest Universal Pre-K by North Side School.

“Rather than knocking it down,” said David Esfhani, executive director of Northside, “we upgraded the entire infrastructure to today’s standard of construction in order to save the appearance of this community building.”

North Side, a not-for-profit company, has been around for several years.

“They started 28 years ago in Forest Hills,” said administrative director Irene Kouba. “The first Pre-K was awarded at our Whitestone location in 2011.”

Registration is open to children ages 4 to 4.9 and is closed when filled to capacity. There are four rooms of 18 children being used with each class requiring one teacher who is state certified in Early Children Education as well as one teaching assistant.

“Each of the employees must be fingerprinted with a state clearance background check and mandated to report on any abuse,” said Kouba.

Parents are obligated to supply the following: school bag or backpack; a marble bound notebook for correspondence with the teacher; diapers and wipes (if needed — weekly supply); smock or large T-shirt for messy activities; and an extra set of clothing (underwear, socks and complete outfit).

Whereas some sites limit the class sessions to 2 1/2 hours, the day at the Woodhaven location is a total of 6 1/2 hours. That includes all meals (breakfast, snack, lunch and beverages) provided daily at no cost to families and 40 minutes of nap time.

“The curriculum is about developing critical thinking with visual stimulation,” said Kouba. “They may listen to a story while the teacher engages them with the topic. For instance, using a story about shoes, children examined them while talking about the weather to wear them and what their shoe is made of. The Department of Education provides recommended topics.”

“It is a Common Core curriculum”, added teacher Amy Goldstein. “How we use the environment around us and text to teach children about a topic such as art. They are provided with appropriate books of informational text that must have a table of contents, real photographs and an index. Each topic goes from four to six weeks.

“In this case they accomplish artwork as well as putting on an art show. Pre-K is the first step in education that molds a child. It is a preparation for entering kindergarten as well as a great way for young children to learn self- esteem.”

What happens if a child gets “out of hand?”

“We have developed what we call a ‘calm down chair,’”said Goldstein. “Underneath is a box that contains such items as paper to tear, pipe cleaners to tie a knot and a stress relief ball to squeeze.”

As far as health, each child has to have a medical report to show inoculations. Upon entering, they hand wash. They are also taught to wash after they are soiled from an activity, before and after going to the bathroom and prior to eating. Each child has their own “cubby hole” where they place their backpack of which they put their jackets or other outer wear.

It is not uncommon that the parents speak a language other than English, which the child picks up. English is spoken and taught at the school and the parents are encouraged to speak English to them at home.

North Side School provides a Parent Education Program via Parent Support Group meetings held once a month on Thursday mornings from 9 am. to 10 a.m. It allows parents and caregivers the chance to learn ways to help their child, as well as the opportunity to share their concerns and make new friends.

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