Niskayuna school district, JCC to start universal pre-k program


NISKAYUNA Parents of 50 kids in the Niskayuna Central School District will have the opportunity to enroll their children in a free pre-kindergarten program at the Jewish Community Center under a new collaboration between the two organizations. 

Finalized details on the program are expected to be approved at the school board’s April 26 meeting, according to district spokesperson Roberto LoBianco. 

However, at the board’s Tuesday night meeting members approved the JCC’s request for proposal. 

“When you look at the JCC’s proposal; play dates designed to support students’ social and emotional skills, communication, language, literacy skills, it’s clear how this partnership really has the potential to impact our students and their families,” said Marie Digirolamo, the assistant superintendent for instruction. 

The district began looking at the implementation of the program this school year following the approval of funding in the state’s 2021 budget. 

The district did not indicate how much it received from the 2021 budget and said the allocation for the 2022-23 budget wasn’t available yet. 

The program would follow the Niskayuna school district calendar and run from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the JCC, according to agenda documents provided by the district. 

People interested in participating in the program would fill out an application and be entered into a lottery. 

“If we are able to get an agreement in place for the April 26 Board meeting, families will have about two weeks to apply,” LoBianco said. “The lottery will be in mid-May.”

Niskayuna families already participating in the JCC’s preschool program would be able to apply for a spot in the free pre-k program. 

The JCC operates an Early Childhood Education program from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Limited space would be available in the organization’s wrap-around care, which is offered before and after school. Child care outside of the pre-k program would not be covered under the state funding. 

Transportation is not provided for the program, according to the document provided by the district. 

Staff will be hired by the JCC for the program and as many as two teachers and two teaching assistants could be hired, LoBianco said.

“We’re just really excited about being able to serve families in a different way,” said Jennifer Chatain, the Early Childhood Director of the JCC. “So traditionally people come to us and they pay us and we serve them right? But now we’re really affording an opportunity to bring in new families who never thought to walk into the JCC and really create a diverse community.”

Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at SB_DailyGazette. 

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