MERIDEN — Inside the First Congregational Preschool, students have fun learning school readiness skills that will help them transition into kindergarten.
The preschool, located at 62 Colony St., has been part of the Meriden community since 1967. Now, it’s one of the 10 child care locations in Meriden that are part of the state’s School Readiness Program, a state-funded initiative administered by the Office of Early Childhood. The preschool has been part of the program since 1997.
The state’s goal is to provide grants, loans, and other types of financing to educational programs, emphasize program accreditation and evaluation, and tighten the system for checking day care employee credentials.
According to the City of Meriden, the program strives to provide affordable, quality child care slots for 3- and 4-year-old children living in Meriden. Fees are based on gross annual income and family size.
Rhonda Knight, Meriden’s School Readiness Coordinator, said teachers focus on developmental areas such as language and literacy, cognition and general knowledge skills. These skills not only prepare children for kindergarten, but for the rest of their lives.
Knight says it’s important for children to get experience inside a classroom before starting kindergarten.
“Our curriculum is child initiated, but it is basically pretty much the STEAM, which you know, the science, the technology, the engineering, the art, and the math,” said Susan Jenkin, director of the preschool program.
In addition, children learn conflict resolution and social emotional development, Jenkin said.
The students are divided up into three classrooms and inside each classroom are three teachers.
“My daughter and my younger daughter were here so I'm experienced as a parent, and as a teacher,” said Silvia DiMella, preschool instructor. DiMella started working at the preschool in 2007 and enjoys working with the children.
DiMella says the preschool is one big community. “We have so many returning families. Families that we had years ago that have children or grandchildren are coming back and we can see the progress of our former students,” she said.
With the goal of building a community, Jenkin says having funding from the School Readiness Program has allowed her to hire highly qualified teachers, which includes educators who are bilingual.
With over 65 percent of students being Hispanic or Latino in Meriden, Knight says it’s important to have bilingual staff.
“If a family really needs support because their home language isn’t English then we can direct them to a program that has bilingual staff present,” Knight said. “But the program has been here for so long that we make sure that we have a bilingual staff because most of our demographic is Hispanic or Latino population.”
For more information on Meriden School Readiness programs, visit their section of the Meridenct.gov website.