WEST ORANGE, NJ — After many years of grappling with overcrowding issues at all 11 schools, the West Orange School District announced this week that it has finalized a lease agreement with The Life Christian Church (“TLCC”) and will be moving its pre-school program from Kelly Elementary School to a new facility at 747 Northfield Ave.

The pre-school year will begin on Sept. 6 and letters have been sent out to all new and returning pre-school families.

According to the current West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE), it began discussing this space earlier this year and set aside funds to pay for the lease.

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“In the past, other boards looked at space on Harrison Avenue, Main Street, Blessed Pope John XXIII Academy (formerly known as St. Joseph's), Suburban Hills, and many other locations,” WOBOE President Sandra Mordecai said on behalf of the board. “The spaces we previously looked at involved many costly renovations. It is our charge to strive to find the balance of providing resources for our students and lessening the burden on taxpayers, and the leased space at TLCC is the most cost effective of all potential sites.”

She added that the district has the necessary approvals from the county and state offices to move forward, as with all business operations in the school district.

The name of the new pre-school will be the Betty Maddalena Early Learning Center and the principal will be Connie Salimbeno. Maddalena was the district’s Director of Student Support Services until her passing in 2011 and Salimbeno worked closely with her for many years.

According to the WOBOE, Maddalena was an educator for more than 30 years, and began her career as a teacher, advancing to coordinator, then supervisor and ultimately director in West Orange. She was the first to receive the prestigious Educator Medal of Honor Award in 2006 from Governor Jon Corzine and Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy.

“Maddalena was always a true advocate for all of our children and extremely well respected by her peers,” said Mordecai. “The board of education wished to honor her legacy by naming the new pre-school in her memory. At a future date, we will be hosting a reception and inviting our community and all who loved and supported Ms. Maddalena to attend.

“On behalf of the board of education, we would like to welcome our new and returning pre-school families to the Betty Maddalena Early Learning Center.”

On Wednesday, Aug. 30, there will be an Open House from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The WOBOE said it looks forward to seeing many pre-school families at this event.