Union City is entering its sixth year with its Early Childhood Education programs, and has been able to reach about 92 percent of their set goal for registered kids.
"We have always pushed it every year," said Adriana Birne, principal of Early Childhood in Union City. "Every year the state gives us a universal number of students eligible for the program."
The Early Childhood program in Union City runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. As part of the program, pre-schoolers get free breakfast, lunch and snacks, and six hours of instruction following the curriculum set by the city.
The curriculum has the children learning through hands-on activities, which they associate with play. The program also offers every child free health screenings through their partnership with the North Hudson Community Action Corporation in order to diagnose any potential health or learning problems early.
Health and education together
Union City has 36 community providers with a total of about 115 preschool classes, and six of the public elementary schools also provide preschool education. Union City also accommodates preschoolers with disabilities.
The ratio in class is one teacher and one aide to 15 students, who are under constant supervision. Teachers are also provided with additional training throughout the year.
All the teachers in Union City's Early Childhood Education programs are certified from pre-k to third grade, and the aides hold Child Development associate's (CDA) degrees.
All early childhood centers that dot the city are within walking distance of the children's homes, as the town does not provide transportation.
With close to about 1,700 children registered, Union City has been successful in its efforts to reach out to the community. The city also broke ground on their new Early Childhood Center last month, which will be completed for September of 2006.
Postings for registration for the Early Childhood programs in Union City will be everywhere from community bulletins and hospitals to cable networks. Every student in Union City is also sent home with flyer about the programs.
"We're bombarding the community with information to make sure that every child in Union City has a chance to participate," said Birne.
Any parents interested in more information about the city's programs can call (201) 271-2265 or (201) 902-7235. Registration will begin April 27, and information can also be picked up the 43rd Street Library or the new Students Registrar's Office, 4405 Palisade Ave.
West New York
West New York's Early Childhood Education campaign has taken a different approach in raising awareness for their programs. Those efforts began last Wednesday, April 13, with the town's second annual Preschool Art Exhibit.
"April is the 'Month of the Young Child,' so we're pushing our registration for preschool," said Rita Mendez, Early Childhood supervisor for the town.
The exhibition, which will be on display at the West New York Public Library until April 24, includes the artwork of one child from every early childhood class in the town. They all created a piece under the theme of spring, and created colorful images of butterflies and flowers among others.
"Its very gratifying, and a lot of it shows our curriculum too through what the children write about and draw," said Claire Warnock, principal of the Early Childhood program. "It's amazing what little 3- and 4-year-olds can do."
Just like Union City, West New York's program is free of charge to the residents of the town, and receives funding from the state, which allows them to continually expand their programs and cater to every child's needs.
Their biggest promotional event coming on Saturday, April 23, is the ChildVersity Fair 2005, which will be held at the Early Childhood School, 5204 Hudson Ave, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hudson County Social Service Agencies and health agencies have been invited to participate in the celebration, which will bring resources to community members, promote preschool educational opportunities and help build community relationships. Some of the agencies attending will be Liberty Science Center, Prevent Child Abuse NJ, Hudson Perinatal and St. Mary's Hospital.
The fair will have parent-child activities and workshops that will touch upon topics such as literacy, science and how to work with the children. Face painting and clowns will be available for the kids, as well as terrific giveaways.
"We'll be taking parents on an Early Childhood education tour, and showing them what a regular preschool day is like," said Mendez. "This is the first year we're doing the fair to help promote our registration drive, and we will also inform the community what resources are out there to help them."
West New York's program, which started in 1999, currently accommodates 1,033 3- to 4-year-olds in about 18 to 20 agencies, and other preschool classes in about six of their schools.
A regular preschool day is generally from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. However, they also offer morning care from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and after-care from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.
The program is also currently implementing a research-based curriculum known as Tools of the Mind, which was formulated by Dr. Deborah J. Leong from Metropolitan State College and Dr. Elena Bodrova from McREL, based on the theories of Lev Vygotsky.
"It teaches the children to self-regulate their education, and as a result, many have become better problem solvers," said Mendez "We're really excited about the program."
The first few teachers implementing this in the classrooms are currently undergoing a two-year training process. Registration begins April 25 at the Early Childhood School Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
For a child to be eligible to participate in either program, parents must show proof of residency in Union City or West New York, and the child needs to be at least 3 years of age by Sept. 30.