Pre-K coming to JFK Elementary School next year

Pre-K coming to JFK Elementary School next year
Teresa Prendergast, the superintendent of the Great Neck schools, announced the formation of a pre-K program at JFK Elementary School on Monday night. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

John F. Kennedy Elementary School will educate pre-K students starting next school year, Great Neck school district officials announced on Monday, expanding the program into the northern half of the district.

Previously, Parkville School – located in New Hyde Park – was the sole school for the entire district to educate pre-K students. With the inclusion of JFK, there will now be a school in the northern half of the district.

“I think it’s going to be a wonderful thing,” Barbara Berkowitz, the president of the school board, said before Monday night’s meeting. “We’re also hoping that it’s going to then help those students who perhaps don’t attend any pre-K program.”

Berkowitz traced the decision back to the initial defeat of the 2017 bond referendum, which included a $17 million early childhood center. After that, she said, school officials began looking into alternatives.

Great Neck Superintendent Teresa Prendergast said that JFK Elementary is a Title I school, meaning it has a larger concentration of higher need students.

Consequently, citing research showing pre-K can lead to higher rates of academic success, Prendergast said it made sense to have a pre-K program for JFK Elementary School.

After the meeting, JFK Elementary School Principal Ron Gimondo described the news as a “wonderful announcement” and said that for students it will mean continuity, quality instruction and being “very close to home.”

“We really are so excited and we’ve been waiting for this opportunity for many, many years,” Gimondo said, adding that the staff really believes in “early intervention” and a “smooth transition into kindergarten.”

Assistant Principal Michelle Bell also said she is “excited to be part of this opportunity,” especially considering it is her first year “being on board.”

“Now I get to take part in such a program and initiative at JFK,” Bell said. “So I’m looking forward to being part of the planning process, and it’s exciting.”

More information will be presented at the board’s Jan. 10 meeting, Berkowitz and Prendergast said. The board will also discuss the district’s mental health curriculum.

Pre-K enrollment is currently at 209 students, or around 3 percent of Great Neck students, school officials said. According to state Education Department data, enrollment in the last 20 years peaked in the 2012-13 school year when there were 267 pre-K students.

“[Parkville] was not crowded, even though we offer universal pre-K,” Berkowitz said.

A group of administrators work together to find out why there's a limit on how much fish a pregnant woman on Long Island can eat. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
A group of administrators work together to find out why there’s a limit on how much fish a pregnant woman on Long Island can eat. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

In unrelated school board business, administrators gave an interactive presentation about the district’s “next generation” science standards. They aim to foster critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity, they said, and focus on connecting students to the material.

Meeting attendees were given a packet of evidence to answer why there are restrictions on how much fish a pregnant woman can eat from Long Island Sound and worked together in teams to find the answer.

Ultimately, it turned out that the 1815 eruption of Mt. Tambora led to a decrease in global temperatures – as partly evidenced by Mary Shelley writing “Frankenstein” while trapped inside by cold weather.

The cooler weather led to greater demand for warm hats, leading to the expansion of hat factories in Danbury, Connecticut, which happened to use mercury. This ultimately led to it running into the Long Island Sound.

In other school business, Prendergast announced that 215 Great Neck athletes have been named scholar athletes.

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