Do you require children to be toilet trained?
PPNS does not require students of any age to be toilet trained. Toilet training and its timing are as individual as each child and we see no reason a child should not attend school because he or she wears diapers! If your child comes to school and is toilet trained, we will take him or her to the bathroom whenever needed, as well as before we have snack and when returning from the playground. If your child is not beginning the training process, we will change diapers on our well-equipped changing table located in one of the first-floor bathrooms (where our younger students attend class. If your child is in the process of training, the staff works very closely with parents so that we facilitate what you are doing at home while your child at school.
All children have accidents occasionally; it’s just part of life. We encourage families to send an extra set of clothing and diapers or underwear because we find that children are most comfortable changing into their own belongings. We also have lots of new clothes, underwear, socks, and diapers here at school in case a child doesn’t have his or her own items.
How do your pre-kindergarten classes prepare students for kindergarten?
Preparation for kindergarten includes what people traditionally think of as academic – pre-reading and writing skills, which involve letter and word recognition, following multi-step directions, developing the fine-motor muscles that are critical to writing; mathematical skills – rote counting, number recognition, understanding how much a number represents, sequencing, geometrical shapes, ordering, sorting, and more PLUS the development of social and critical thinking skills. It is essential for children to be ready to learn in a kindergarten environment – the ability to take turns and wait for a turn, work through disappointments, cope with delayed gratification, talk with and listen to peers and teachers, and develop empathy for others while learning self-help skills.
At PPNS, we provide for both types of development, so that children enter kindergarten recognizing the alphabet, numbers, some sight words and performing simple mathematical operations, and are also comfortable initiating play, solving social problems, and respecting their classmates.
I invite you to look at the NJ Learning Standards for Preschool and Kindergarten to get a better sense of the type of expectations for both age groups. They can be found at http://www.state.nj.us/education/cccs/, along with the standards up to Grade 12.
How do you handle discipline?
- Beginning in the two-year-old classes, we model respectful play. If one child takes a toy out of another child’s hand, the teacher returns the toy to the child who had it first, and then models language for the second child, such as “I want a turn when you are done.” The teacher then makes sure the first child shares the toy with the second child in a few minutes, demonstrating that asking can get the result you want. Of course, some of the twos are not particularly verbal yet. In this case the teacher will help facilitate turn-taking.
- Having said this, the staff also checks to see what playthings are popular in a given year. If we have lots of children who love playing with a dump truck, we make sure to have several of the trucks, so there isn’t a long wait for a turn.
- We also look at the classroom layout and routines. There may be a particular group who loves to build one year. We might rearrange the typical room plan to include a larger area for blocks and their accessories, and make sure the area is located so out of walking spaces. We may find that a class is struggling with certain transitions. We’ll then review the daily schedule to determine how we can modify activities to reduce or eliminate transitions, or create fun games that help the children move from one part of the schedule to the next.
We have found that our students generally develop excellent social problem-solving skills by the time they enter our pre-kindergarten classes and are able to advocate for themselves and engage in respectful give and take.
If there is a chronic issue with behavior that hurts others or oneself, we collaborate with families to develop a plan for modifying actions at school that complements what is being done at home.
Do you have a playground?
Yes, PPNS is fortunate to have a large, tree-shaded playground behind our school. We have one large climbing/tunnel piece of equipment, a separate climbing pod, four swings, a balance beam, a garden house where children can play and chat, and a large sandbox, which is covered when school is not in session. A shed holds shovels, pails, trucks and other sand toys. Each class has its own half hour on the playground. We do this because twos play quite differently than fours and fives and we want the children to explore at their own developmental level. When it is raining or snowing or very cold, we have gross motor play in our large indoor place space, which is set up with tricycles, scooters, low climbing equipment, balance beams, a small basketball hoop, balls, and mats.
Because our programs are half-day, we do not play outside when the playground is snow-covered. The many minutes spent putting on and taking off snowsuits is not a beneficial use of time for the children in a two hour and forty-five-minute program. Fortunately, PPNS students can run, pedal, climb, and jump inside as well as out! Students who attend morning classes and afternoon enrichment have two gross-motor sessions each day. Lunch Bunch groups often play outside after everyone has finished their meal.
How do you begin the school year?
Most families register their children during the winter and spring before school begins. A confirmation letter is sent upon registration. In June, the director announces three playground gatherings for each age group, with two of the events held on weekdays and one on a Saturday. These are scheduled periodically throughout July and August. This is a relaxed opportunity for new families to get to know one another, old families to reconnect, and gives all children time to become acclimated to the playground and school property.
Teachers send welcome letters to their individual students at the beginning of August. This letter will invite your family to meet with both teachers in the classroom during the Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday after Labor Day. Classes begin one week after Labor Day. We have a special schedule the first week, that allows the children to ease into the school routine; teachers share this with parents at the individual visit.
During the second week of school, our music teacher begins her weekly sessions with all morning classes. Our optional programs – early drop-off; lunch bunch, and afternoon enrichment – also begin the second week of school.
What if I want to speak with my child’s teacher?
We look forward to frequent communication with our parents throughout the year! We love working as a team to ensure your child’s happiness and well-being at school. The only time we ask that you not engage in a lengthy conversation is at the beginning of class, drop-off time. We want the teachers to be available to greet each student and their adult and be ready to comfort any child who is having a tough time separating from the person bringing him or her to school.
Each teacher will provide you with their personal telephone number and e-mail address. You may call and email whenever you wish. We just ask that if you have a question later than 8 pm in the evening, you communicate with the director. Our teachers have their own children and need to be focused on them in the late evening. Our director will respond to you as soon as she can, and teachers will call or email you in the next day.
We hold individual formal conferences twice a year for all age groups. The first conference, held in late November or early December, focuses on your child’s adjustment to school, and invites parents to share their goals for the school year. The second conference, held in May, looks at your child’s development over the entire school year. The conferences are set up so that busy parents have a dedicated opportunity to confer with their children’s teachers,. You may also request a conference at any time of the year. We are always happy to speak with you!
How are you affiliated with Pennington Presbyterian Church?
PPNS was founded in 1961 as an outreach to the local community. Walter Coats, the senior pastor of the church (and great-grandfather of a current PPNS student!) and Bev Thurman and Wendy Pfeffer, wo members of the congregation who were certified teachers, organized our first classes which focused on giving children play-based opportunities to learn and develop social, motor, self-help, and pre-reading, writing, and mathematics skill. Sixty years later, we honor these traditions, while keeping abreast of early-childhood research and best practices.
Our nursery school board of directors is made up of church members and parent representatives and work collaboratively to ensure a mutually harmonious relationship between the church and school.
We do not offer specific biblical instruction, but rather see ourselves as demonstrators of love and kindness to the people around us and through the way we care for each other and our school. We say a prayer before snack and talk about religious holidays, including Christian celebrations, and those observed by other faith traditions. We are delighted to have families share their own rituals and celebrations us throughout the year. PPNS partners with the church at Thanksgiving and in the spring, as we provide food for students from the Children’s Day School in Ewing. We also collect pajamas, new diapers, and other items for those in need throughout the year.
How do you handle unexpected school closings because of inclement weather?
Our director researches weather and road conditions in our area when determining whether we need to have a delayed opening or a closing on a particular day. We all want to be in school, but safety is our top priority so it is wisest not to hold school when the weather is hazardous.
Our procedures are the following:
If school must be closed, the director will begin checking the day before and early in the morning when inclement weather is expected. Families will be advised via email as soon as a closing determination has been made. This could be the evening before a big snowstorm when many inches of snow are expected, or if we have a warning for hurricane force winds and rain. In all cases, families will be notified by 7:00 a.m. at the latest if school must be closed for the day. The PPNS phone message and website will also be updated.
If a delayed opening is necessary, the director will inform all families via email by 7:00 a.m. A delayed opening means that we do not hold Early Drop-Off and all morning classes meet from 10:15 a.m. to 12 noon. Lunch Bunch and Afternoon Enrichment meet as regularly scheduled. Again, the school’s phone and website will be updated.
If an early dismissal occurs, the director will check weather and road conditions all morning and email families if it becomes dangerous for driving. In that case, we will cancel Lunch Bunch and Afternoon Enrichment, but staff members will remain at school until all children are able to be picked up by family members.
Our PPNS make-up day policy has been carefully developed by the nursery school board after multiple inclement weather situations over the past several years. If a child misses more than their regular one-week schedule of classes, they will be invited to make up the excess missed days. For example, if a child attends school three days a week, but school must be closed four days in one year, that child will be entitled to add another day of school at some point during the year. Individual make-up classes will be coordinated by the director, teachers, and child’s family.
In unusual situations when the school must be closed for several days, the nursery school board and director will determine whether to add on days during June.
How do you handle COVID?
We have detailed and specific guidelines and protocols in place to mitigate the spread of COVID in school. These are mandated by the NJ Department of Children and Families, Office of Childcare Licensing, and guided by the NJ Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. All guidelines are included in our family handbook. In addition, the director hosts a meeting for parents prior to the start of school to go over all protocols. Our students are old enough to wear masks, which we reinforce through positive guidance and reminders.
Individual classrooms may be shut down for a few days if the children and teachers have come in contact with a COVID-diagnosed individual at school. The director will advise all families of the situation and the current testing protocols and quarantine procedures.