Jewish Preschools Bring Values to the Community

The experience a child has in preschool lays the foundation for success in school and throughout life, so choosing the right preschool for your child is a critical decision.

The Louisville Jewish community is blessed with several high quality preschools. The following articles are intended to provide some insight into what each school offers, to provide some of the information young families need as they consider this important issue.

Adath Jeshurun Preschool

Adath Jeshurun is one of only two full-day Jewish community preschools that offer infant care starting at six weeks of age. Scheduling is flexible (before school/after school) and parents can change to a different schedule on a monthly basis. Children attend through pre-kindergarten – there is no kindergarten class. Hours are 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. with half-day and extended day options available.

Next year, the school plans fewer days off from school for Jewish holidays and will be open for Passover and Sukkot, for instance, but will incorporate the holidays into their program. There will be traditional meals for Passover, but the art center will be closed and equipment such as CD players will not be used. “We are working toward helping working parents with their obligations and incorporating the Jewish holidays into our curriculum,” says Melissa Loyd, preschool director.

The school has 140 students. They are adding an additional nursery classroom that can handle eight babies per day with two teachers. Loyd says this staffing is much better than state requirements. The need was there to accommodate the siblings of children already in the program.

AJ offers a summer camp program in June and July as well for children from infancy through pre-kindergarten. Approximately 75 children attend.

The early childhood program includes creative movement, science, music, art and Spanish classes, as well as puppet and magic shows, face painting, Israeli dance and special visitors. The pre-kindergarten class is more academic in nature and the school receives letters from local schools commenting on how well prepared their students are.

The majority of Adath Jeshurun’s Preschool teachers have been with the school for many years, including Harriet Walkman, who is marking her 43rd year there. Teachers are first aid and CPR-trained, and all participate in 15 hours of continuing education in early childhood every year in collaboration with teachers from Keneseth Israel and The Temple.

The school has increased and benefited from their participation in the Partnership with Israel program that has teachers come from Israel’s Western Galilee area to work with the local Jewish preschools. When the teachers visited recently, students cut out large fabric stars and spent time decorating them. The stars will be sent to Israel for display there. A smaller enrichment project was done at Adath Jeshurun with just 20 children.

For more information about the AJ Preschool, call 451-3434, email preschool2@adathjeshurun.com on see the website: www.ajpreschool.com.

Gan Torah – The Beverly Weisberg Preschool

Gan Torah is the only preschool in the area offering a dual curriculum (English/Hebrew) on a daily basis for children ages 18 months through preschool. According to Goldie Litvin, the school’s principal, their English teacher does an incredible job of preparing the children to read. Litvin’s 4-year-old son reads fluently in English and in Hebrew, she said.

The school day runs 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and kosher lunches and snacks are served during the day.

Litvin considers hers a “modified Montessori program” with students from Keneseth Israel, Adath Jeshurun and families that are unaffiliated. Litvin explains the school uses an integrated curriculum that uses local resources to make subjects relevant.

“We might go to the zoo,” she said, “and incorporate math, weather or social studies into what we are experiencing there. When things flow like that, they make sense to the children.

“During Passover, the 10 plagues become part of an area of study,” Litvin continued. “We took the kindergarten, pre-K and younger classes to a matzah factory during the holiday, and the 2-year-olds had a wonderful time rolling out the dough. It was a great experience for them and for the older children as well.”

The preschool is small so individualized attention for each student is a given. Litvin will not place more than eight children in the same class. Students especially enjoy music and going to the public library for story time. Shabbat, birthday and Rosh Hodesh parties are included in the mix, as well as physical exercise enhanced by two well-equipped indoor/outdoor playgrounds on the premises.

All teachers are well qualified and each has CPR and first-aid certification. The Judaic teachers attend an educational conference each year.

Litvin is proud that one of her former preschool students who later attended The Louisville Jewish Day School through eighth grade just received a full scholarship to Yeshiva University. She also has received five calls of inquiry about her program over the last few weeks, so word of the school’s reputation is spreading. The preschool also co-sponsors a day camp, Gan Israel, with The Louisville Jewish Day School.
Although the school does not have a scholarship fund, Litvin says they will work with families who cannot afford the tuition.

For more information about Gan Torah call 451-3122, ext. 3; e-mail gantorah@gmail.com or look for Gan Torah on Facebook.

JCC Preschool

Becky Temes McKiernan has been the Jewish Community Center’s director of Early Childhood Education (ECE) for more than three years, and during that time, the demand for services has created a waiting list for childcare placement extending into mid-2013 for some classes. McKiernan notes it is particularly gratifying to hear positive comments, especially about the staff in the baby room, since infants require so much attention and TLC (tender, loving care). Staffing levels exceed state requirements.

“I think we have a really strong program,” she says, “due to our low child/teacher ratio, caring staff and germ-free conditions.” She is particularly pleased that the vast majority of children stay with the program from infancy through the completion of four-year-old pre-K classes (there is no Kindergarten program).

The school has created a number of alternative activities for different stages in development. For instance, by the time children are six-eight months old, there is greater sensory development, which calls for more stimulating activities.

As they reach their first birthday, infants are transitioned to the Toddler Room, which takes about one month and provides parents with a needed comfort level. They don’t rush the process and take the time to determine whether the placement is right for the parents, the child and for the staff. “Everyone needs to be comfortable with it,” says McKiernan.

The Toddler Room is more like a preschool that runs on an “academic year” from August through May, with a daily schedule, monthly theme and projects to go with the theme. The children stay in that room until they either transition to camp or to JTots in the fall. Parents have the option of sending children to JTots two, three or five days/week. The four classrooms include Aleph for infants 6 weeks to 16 months of age; Bet for 2s, Gimmel for 3s and Daled for 4s.

In addition to regular activities, the program holds winter, spring and summer-break camps so parents do not have to worry about what to do with the children during those times. The JCC will be closed for five days next year in observance of Jewish holidays. McKiernan explains that although many of the children are not Jewish, her program celebrates all the Jewish holidays and teaches them from a cultural rather than a religious perspective.

For instance, Tu b’Shevat, the holiday of the trees, might be the scene of a school-wide birthday party. Deeply rooted Jewish values, such as tzedakah, become learning opportunities and help the children understand why it is important to do nice things for others. Children take home kid-friendly material explaining what they’ve done so parents feel included in the celebrations as well.

There are specialty classes too: local folksinger John Gage teaches music and Jane Bick teaches Spanish. Jewish culture classes are offered too. Three- and four-year-olds take Lenny Krayzelburg Academy swim lessons, where the first lesson they learn is to be safe in the water. Preschool enrichment classes, including GymJam, Tumblebus and Book and Bake, are offered at an extra fee.

“I can’t state strongly enough how much we LOVE the JCC,” says Terri Cleary, the parent of two daughters, ages two and four, who have been in the Center’s ECE program since they were 12 weeks old. “The JCC offers both daycare and preschool,” she adds, “so it has been like a one-stop-shop for our family. Both girls are in the same place year ‘round, which makes coordinating schedules much easier on parents. Becky is terrific to work with and we love the convenience of dropping the girls off in the morning around 7:30 a.m. and still being able to get downtown by 8.”

Cleary is also delighted that the children’s program makes use of the entire JCC facility and all it has to offer. Even one-year-olds have playtime in the gyms, preschoolers take swim lessons at the indoor pool and they even have some interaction with seniors through some carefully planned joint activities. Above all, the preschool teachers bond with the children and follow an accredited preschool curriculum with an emphasis on art, music and games that make learning fun.

Closings to observe both secular and Jewish holidays don’t pose a problem either. The national holidays are the same ones Cleary’s company observes, and although the preschool is closed for JCPS winter and spring breaks, there are camp activities offered on those days. The Infant and Walker rooms remain open during school breaks and the staff can offer suggestions for Jewish holiday coverage if needed.

Stephanie Rosenthal, a friend of Cleary’s who is expecting twins this summer, had looked at several daycares, but chose to sign up at the JCC because it felt like coming home for her. She had visited other places, but wanted her children to be in the same warm, nurturing environment she experienced as a child growing up at the Center.

“The whole atmosphere was refreshing, cheerful and very clean,” she said after a preliminary visit. “If the twins aren’t going to be with me all day, then this is the environment I want them to be in.”
For more information about the JCC’s early childhood programs, call Becky Temes McKiernan at 238-2748.

Kenseth Israel Preschool

“There are lots of good preschools in Louisville,” says Shary Loewy Hyman, director of the Keneseth Israel Preschool (KIP). “We tell parents trying to decide on where to send their children to find a place that seems like a good fit for them. They should also look at the qualities of the staff aside from the fact that they are qualified instructors.” Hyman has been with KIP for 15 years and says their staff averages 15-20 years with the program.

While the school officially opens at 8:15 a.m., parents in need of an earlier drop-off time (approximately 90 percent of parents work outside the home) can have their children join the breakfast bunch from 7:30-8:15 at an additional fee. The schedule is exceptionally flexible with three and five-day options available for children 12 months old through 2 years. Three and 4-year-olds attend five days. Afternoon sessions (12-3 and 12-6 p.m. and extended day from 3-6 p.m.) are available at an additional charge. Most children stay at the school all day, with pick-up times starting at noon.

Since KIP is one of the smaller Jewish schools in town, Hyman says by day two, the teachers know the names of all of the children in the school. Hyman personally greets every child and parent in the morning and finds that parents often feel comfortable enough to stay a while and chat. All meals are kosher and are prepared by a full-time, on-site cook. The standard monthly fee includes meals and snacks (except for breakfast).

In addition to computer, movement, music and French, which are integral parts of the curriculum, the school offers private ballet, soccer and Tumblebus in the afternoons. While there is an extra charge for these activities, KIP considers them a service so parents don’t have to leave the school to take their children to other activities.

“We are proud of our program,” says Hyman. “Today’s kindergarten is like a first grade curriculum used to be, and we receive letters from schools in the area on a regular basis thanking us for preparing our children so well. The schools also become a referral source for us.”

KIP is licensed for teaching children from 12 months to kindergarten. The 1-year-old class actually starts in the fall. Limited openings are available for classes next year. For more information, contact KIP at 458-0687, email sharykip@aol.com or check their website: www.kip-kids.com.

The Temple Trager Early Childhood Education Center

“Our school is academically focused,” said Alison Roemer, director of The Temple Trager Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC). “Our staff is outstanding and they have all been here for a long time, most teachers for more than 20 years. The newest one came four years ago.”

The ECEC’s 140 students take part in an enriched program that includes music, movement, science, Spanish and storytelling. In addition, puppet shows, magic shows and other special events are schedules throughout the year. The facility also maintains a large and well-equipped playground.

While all programs foster a learning environment for preschool children, Roemer notes many learning opportunities available for four-year-olds. A variety of special fall, spring and winter-focused programs are offered and extended day programs include soccer, karate, Legos® and gymnastics. There is an extra fee charged for some classes.

The preschool program includes daily kosher-style hot lunches and two snacks per day prepared on-site in order to control allergies.

The school is open from 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Preschool class hours are 9 a.m.-noon. There is a full-day kindergarten from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Children 18 months-2 years old have two-, three- and five-day options; youngsters ages 3-kindergarten attend five days per week. The before school program runs from 7:30 a.m.-8:45 a.m. and the after-school option runs 12-4 p.m. or 12-6 p.m.

Classes typically begin to fill up in January and February, but there are a limited number of openings remaining for the next school year, except for kindergarten. Requests for 18-month classes usually come in the fall for the following year. Open enrollment begins in January. Temple members and current students can sign up early and members of The Temple receive a discount on tuition.

“We serve a diverse population,” Roemer comments, “and all of the children are well prepared for public, private and parochial schools when they leave. We receive excellent feedback from schools commenting on our children’s readiness to learn.”

The preschool also sponsors a six-week summer camp from 8:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. for children ages 2 years-kindergarten with a full-day option. Campers enjoy water play, magic shows, special visitors and library time and continued academic excellence.

For more information about the The Temple Trager ECEC, call 423-1444, e-mail aroemer@thetempleaibs.org or check out the website: www.templepreschool.com.

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