From a Nursery School Parent

A Cutting Edge Preschool Right in our Backyard

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It’s nothing like figuring out preschool in the city, but determining which preschool is the right fit for your child and your family here in Westchester is still a big decision. The JCC of Mid-Westchester boasts a cutting edge Early Childhood Center right on the Scarsdale/New Rochelle border that encourages all families to consider joining regardless of their religion, ethnicity, race, sexual preference, or nationality. Christine Oh moved back to the U.S. from Japan after living abroad for ten years and found the JCC to be exceptionally welcoming. “We feel very comfortable at the JCC even though we are not Jewish. I find celebrating Shabbat to be really nice and makes me feel like a part of the community,” she said. Michelle Sturner agreed. She has been at the JCC now for two years with her boys and she would have stayed for kindergarten had that been an option. Michelle is also not Jewish, but she loves celebrating Shabbat at the JCC. “They expose the kids to it in a really positive way,” she said. “The religion isn’t pushed in any way; it’s more like the customs are presented in a beautiful way.” The JCC houses a progressive preschool that has tailored its programming to what parents have voiced they value most such as excellent programming, a flexible school day (half day, full day, etc.), a warm and nurturing environment, easy drop-off and pick-up, feeling like a part of the school as the child’s caregiver, and offering other activities under the same roof.

Hugs are included every day

Jodi Menell has a son in the 4’s and a daughter that will begin the 2’s in September. “I love the teachers at the JCC. I’m sending my son to kindergarten next year even though he will be one of the younger ones; the teachers have been so incredibly supportive of this decision.” If Jodi had chosen to hold her son back a year, the JCC does offer a transitional year so a child doesn’t have to repeat the 4’s. “It was nice to know that the JCC has that option in case I had decided to hold him back,” she added. “It’s such a nurturing environment,” Jodi said. “It’s family friendly and parents are frequently invited into the classroom. They’ve been very welcoming of my nanny and recognize her as an integral part of our family.” Coming from the city, Jodi has found it easy to make friends with other preschool parents. Christine described her daughter as shy and was pleasantly surprised after her first day that she couldn’t wait for her next day of school. “My daughter and I love all of the teachers and we feel very connected to them,” she said. “I feel like the teachers and the director are really, truly there for my family and me,” added Michelle. “The teachers have this incredible balance of being nurturing but being responsible and accountable at the same time.”

Curbside drop off, early drop off, late pick up

The JCC allows parents to drop their children off without getting out of the car beginning at 8:40 AM. The JCC understands that it’s difficult and time consuming for parents to get younger siblings out of the car for drop off, particularly in inclement weather. “In the winter, and with my 2-year-old in the car also, curbside drop off is awesome,” exclaimed Jodi. The JCC offers early drop off at 8:00 AM and care after regular school hours from 3-6:00 PM which helps meet the needs of working parents and parents with other children on other schedules.

Vacation camps and summer camps

The JCC offers mini-camps during school vacation times, a huge perk for working parents and for families that may not have vacations planned during these times. There is also a well-known summer camp for kids ages two through high school. Many preschool parents keep their kids at the JCC for the summer camp because of the flexibility it offers, its top-notch reputation in lower Westchester, and to keep the consistency of the facility and the teachers for the kids. But don’t be fooled! The camps are very different from the school day in that they are filled with water play, lots of swimming, and extensive outdoor time.

Other activities without leaving the building

Unique to the JCC is the ability for preschoolers to take other classes after their usual school day, such as art classes, dance, soccer, super sports, karate, gymnastics, and swimming. Children are escorted to their activities. “My daughter does after school ballet and soccer,” said Christine. “I love it because I don’t have to take her somewhere else and wait for a class to start. I feel very comfortable leaving her there because they take her right to her other activities.” Parents can benefit from this “all under one roof” feature as well. The JCC offers a special fitness membership to preschool parents at the rate of only $40 a month!

Swimming

For Jodi, swimming was one of the biggest selling points. “My 4 year old is so comfortable in the water. He loves the swimming and it’s one of his favorite parts of his school day. It’s so much better than having to find swim lessons other places and it’s included in the cost of the extended day which is just unbelievable to me.” Christine agreed, saying, “My daughter’s confidence in the pool is much greater than it used to be. The swimming program at the JCC is truly exceptional.” Michelle’s boys both learned to swim, and swim well, at the JCC during their school hours.

Flexible school day

The JCC offers full days or half days for preschool aged kids. “Some of my friends send their kids to preschools that only offer school from 9-12, then they’re scrambling to find other activities to keep their kids busy every day,” added Jodi. “I love that I can choose any number of days a week to keep my kids there for the extended day and that they extended day isn’t just day care, it’s actually themed! There’s math, science, reading, culture, and swimming.” A one-hour after-school lunch bunch is also offered for kids who want to stay and eat a supervised lunch with their friends.

Comprehensive school day

The Director of the Early Childhood Center, Caryn Symons, attributes the ability of the JCC to have such a comprehensive school day at the preschool level to the phenomenal facilities. “We have a pool, a large gym, a dance studio, and an indoor motor room which is great for days when the weather isn’t great.” Many other preschools in lower Westchester don’t have the luxury of big indoor spaces. “As part of the regular school day,” the Director continued, “we offer nature, yoga, music, sports, computers, and more.” Michelle added, “…it’s a play-based program at the JCC, but they are learning when they are playing, and I see that every day.” The JCC still has a select number of spots open in their various preschool programs. Check out the JCC website and contact the Director of the Early Childhood Center, Caryn Symons, at 914-472-7095 or symonsc@jccmw.org for more information. “Come see what you’re getting for your money,” said Michelle. “Nothing else around here comes close to it. I have tears in my eyes when I say that the JCC is the best decision I ever made on my children’s behalf.”