CEDAR GROVE, NJ - Cedar Grove education officials have planned a second integrated preschool for special education and general education children to learn in an inclusive environment.

A second integrated preschool program was proposed by Director of Special Services Christopher Kinney as part of the budget presentation at the Feb. 28 Board of Education meeting. The second preschool would be added to South End School and would mirror the one currently in place at North End School.

The program would not only make it easier for students whose home school is not North End, but it would also enrich the education of both general education and special education students.

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“You have students with disabilities that are put into a preschool with those called ‘typical peers,’” Kinney said of the integrated preschool model. “It’s an added benefit for both students because the program is enriched because of certain things that need to be done for both students.”

In this type of classroom, students would be introduced to things that they may not get to experience in an exclusively general education or special education classroom, including music therapy, group PT, or group speech.

Although there are no set numbers yet, Kinney said the district has talked about capping each class off at 15 students. The school district has a lottery system to see which children get to attend the preschool, and while there are currently more people who have applied for the North End preschool program than the South End one, Kinney hopes that after the March 9 open house more people will apply.

“Parents are going to have to bring their kids somewhere to preschool and it’s in town,” Kinney said, adding that students can attend the South End preschool even if their home school is North End. “So if they don’t make the North End cut, they can be added to the South End lottery pool.”

The $5,000 per year tuition for the preschool is one that Kinney said is reasonable compared to other schools in the area, especially for the 8:30 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. schedule.

That tuition would also bring in revenue for the school district, Kinney said at the meeting. With the elimination of school buses for those students who can now attend their home school, the new preschool teacher’s salary would be covered.

The ability to now attend their home school is something that Kinney said is an added bonus for students and would make for a smoother transition into kindergarten.

“Right now if [students] need a preschool classroom because of special needs, they have to go to North End even though they are South End students,” Kinney said. “If I open up South End preschool, they’re in their home school so they get acclimated and accustomed to that.”

This second preschool would also give more students the Cedar Grove school experience, even if they were not placed at their home school.

“It also helps the community get exposure to the schools in general,” Kinney said. “Even if you’re not chosen for North End, but you’re a North End parent and you won the lottery for a South End spot, I wouldn’t be discouraged, because you learn the routine, and it’s almost the same program as North End.”

Parents can learn more about this preschool opportunity at the open house Thursday, March 9 at 1:15 p.m. at North End School, or they can contact Kinney’s office directly by calling 973-239-1550 ext. 6200.