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Rahway Opens Doors Wide to Preschool for 3 Year Olds

Rahway Opens 3 year old Preschool

Story by:    Rob Kinch

Photos by:  Joseph Mudrak


     You’re never too old to learn.  Very true.  However, nor are you ever too young.  Such is the unwavering belief of Rahway’s Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Patricia Camp, who has now opened the colorful preschool door to the marvels, mysteries, and magic of learning for her district’s captive audience of 3 year olds.

      “I have very straightforward educational goals for our littlest learners,” affirms Dr. Camp.  “I want them to be happy coming to school and, especially, for them to love learning new things.”  Yet apart from these seemingly ‘immediate’ objectives, she does wish to share with parents her focus on setting their youngsters on a path which would facilitate and, hopefully, guarantee their future success upon entering their grammar school years.  “Early childhood (preschool-grade 1) education is critical in laying the foundation for later learning.” avers Dr. Camp.  “It is in the early years that the stage is set for a love of learning in general and for literacy specifically.”  The Superintendent’s overarching goal is “to get all of our students reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade – with that goal accomplished, we would see so many academic difficulties for the students (and teachers) in grades 4-12 disappear.”

Dr. Camp Plays With Preschoolers

      With the success of the expanded ½ day to full day preschool program for the 2017-2018 school year, made possible by last year’s $2,700,000 grant from the State Dept. Of Education, Rahway District reapplied this past winter for 2018-2019 school year monies so it may now include 3 year olds in its preschool program.  It should be noted that, up to this point, the District had only provided preschool for classified 3 year olds.  Once again Rahway School District was granted additional funding, this time in the amount of $3.5 million.  In the late spring/early summer of 2018, the State DOE reached out to the District and asked if it could do more.  Dr. Camp explains, “At that time we had a small waiting list and so we applied for and were granted an additional $888,000!  This will take care of most of our current waiting list – we will provide for the 4 year olds first and then as many 3 year olds as we can accommodate.”

      Thanks to having previously forged a community partnership with Rahway’s JFK Community Center, a licensed daycare provider, as a venue for the District’s full day preschool program for 4 year olds, Dr. Camp offers, “We raised the level of preschool education across Rahway.”  She is now pleased to announce the District’s additional community partnering for the new school year with Rahway’s YMCA, Rahway Daycare Center, and with St. Thomas the Apostle Church to effectively broaden its preschool program.  Dr. Camp also notes, “Since our community partners also do infant/toddler care, we therefore raise the standard of care for our youngsters as well.  Without these valued community partners, our district would not have adequate room to provide the maximum amount of quality preschool education for our littlest citizens.” 

Boys plays in preschool

        Constructed originally to serve as an educational center, St. Thomas Church can now offer Rahway’s youngest students the benefits of 3 classrooms, 1 indoor play station, 3 teachers and 4 paraprofessionals.  Rt. Rev. James Hayer of St. Thomas and Vicar General of Eparchy of Passaic attests, “It’s a joy for us to welcome Rahway’s students and teachers because it allows our property to be more fully utilized for the purpose for which it was intended, and it allows us to provide a unique service to the community in which we live and pray.”  St. Thomas preschool teacher Janice Quattrocchi finds the opportunity of being the first to introduce her young learners to the wondrous world of education “exciting” and eagerly anticipates “seeing so much growth at the end of the year.”

Preschool boys pose for photograph

        Snuggled in two educationally engaging preschool classrooms in Rahway’s YMCA, each with its own teacher and paraprofessional, one can find smiles, laughter, energy, wonder (and the occasional tear) amid a colorfully inviting world of books, blocks, sand tables, paints, and gadgets.  Preschool teacher Esther Mendez, who is very clearly loved by her little scholars, is powerfully driven by “their curiosity” and “their desire to engage in all they do.”  Jennifer Alfonse, Program Supervisor of Early Childhood Education for Rahway Public Schools, shares in the excitement she witnesses daily thanks to these new community partnerships.  She takes great pride in “having the ability to work with a phenomenal group of district administrators and staff, all committed to the mission of providing the best possible early learning experiences for the preschool children of Rahway.”  She continues to cite that it is their dedication to this mission “that drives each expansion opportunity, each new classroom opening, and each new community collaboration.”

Supervisor Jennifer Alphonse

         One need look no farther than the smiles in the eyes and the bounce in the step of the 378 youngsters now enrolled in Rahway’s preschool for 3 and 4 year olds to understand that each little one is wandering happily down his or her path to discovering the joy of knowledge and the success it brings.  Sure, there may be a stumble or two along the way…but that’s okay too.  There is no shortage of caring hands alongside to lift them right back up.  Tiffany Beer, Rahway Schools’ Director of Curriculum and Instruction for all subject areas including preschool, is eager to make this promise to parents, “What we are able to offer our students and families will benefit them for all years to come.  Preschool is the foundation for all future education.”  (But for now…can’t deny blocks are still a lot of fun.)

Director of Curriculum Tiffany Beer