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Looking for Excellence in a Preschool Program?

You need not look further than our own school district. Half Hollow HIlls' Universal Prekindergarten program is a top-quality program and free of charge to district residents who qualify.

Classroom activities are supposed to be fun for preschool children. But the sights and sounds coming from Lori Lizzo's classroom are positively magical.

Lizzo teaches two preschool classes per day as part of the Half Hollow Hills universal pre-kindergarten program (UPK) at Vanderbilt Elementary School. Her students are always happy and engaged in singing, dancing, painting, or any one of a variety of challenging academic activities.

Lizzo is a dynamic and creative teacher who with her loyal and loving assistants create a nurturing and exciting learning environment for their students. She has a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education. She also holds two teaching certifications in Early Childhood Education (birth through grade 2) as well as first through 6th grades. She is currently pursuing an additional certification in Special Education.

Lizzo works with the district SOAR Autism program and has served as the director of a childcare center prior to teaching our UPK. Clearly, Lizzo is highly qualified for her job. Sheri Keller, District Coordinator of Preschool Special Education and Related Services in Half Hollow Hills answered some questions about the program.

What is the Universal Pre-K program?
The New York State UPK program is a state-funded program that provides educationally based quality pre-kindergarten to four-year-old children. It helps young children be better prepared to learn.

Since 1997, this program has played an important role in assisting districts and students in meeting higher educational standards. It has created an earlier entry point to education and assists in the coordination between a wide variety of early childhood settings and public education. UPK makes progress toward closing the achievement gaps at earlier grade levels. REACH CYA is the universal pre-K provider for the Half Hollow Hills School District.

Who is eligible to attend the program?
A child must be four years old on or before December 31st and not eligible for kindergarten. Children must reside within the boundaries of the Half Hollow Hills Central School District. The total number of students enrolled in the program is contingent upon funding in the New York State budget.

What are the school hours?
Our morning and afternoon sessions vary from 8:45 – 11:15 and 9:00 – 11:30 in the morning and from  12:15 – 2:45 and 12:30 – 3:00 in the afternoon.

What is the average class size?
Maximum class size is 18 students.

How many teachers/assistants per class?
Each class has one certified teacher and one assistant.

How many pre-K classes does the district provide and in which buildings are they located?
There are morning and afternoon classes in each of our district's seven elementary schools. Children's familiarity with their home school environment and classmates provides for a smooth transition into kindergarten.

How is the curriculum aligned to our district's academic standards?
REACH CYA and the HHH School District collaborate to create a curriculum that provides the necessary skills to prepare students for kindergarten. The curriculum includes:
Language Arts – reading, writing, listening, and speaking
Math
Science
Social Studies
Art and Music
Physical Education
Enrichment Specials

What is a typical day like for a pre-K student?
REACH CYA's pre-K program provides opportunities for children to make choices and decisions, create, interact, play, communicate, and discover on a daily basis. Most importantly, we want children to have fun, make new friends, and develop a love for learning at school.

Our pre-K classrooms are divided into learning centers that include family living, kitchen, reading, art, fine motor/manipulative play, blocks, and dramatic play. During the day children have both directed and free time. They participate in circle time, one-on-one teacher-guided activities, and self-directed activities. They spend time in the classroom, the gym and outdoors. Monthly themes include challenging activities, hands-on experiences, multicultural holiday celebrations, and integrated learning opportunities. Children have snack where socialization is encouraged and self-help skills and manners are taught.

How do families apply? When is the application due date? Are there costs involved?
UPK registration forms are made available in January on the HHH website (www.halfhollowhills.k12.ny.us). Application deadlines will be indicated. There are no costs associated with UPK.

Additional information regarding UPK may be found at http://www.p12.nysed.gov/upk/.

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