The Arlington High School (AHS) building houses several different programs that are necessary and important resources for our public schools. Menotomy Preschool is a crucial part of Arlington Public Schools (APS) because it provides state and federally mandated inclusion-based education for Arlington’s preschool students who require special education services. In addition, it provides opportunities for AHS students to take hands-on elective courses in child development studies.
The cost estimates for the new high school include Menotomy and all other services and programs that reside in the current facility. This blog post provides more detail on the Menotomy Preschool program and its role in the Arlington Public Schools.
Students are admitted to Menotomy after the age of 2.9 until they can enroll in public kindergarten. To enroll in kindergarten, children must be 5 years old by September of the entrance year. Menotomy currently serves 147 students. Without the special education services Menotomy provides, Arlington would have to send these preschool-aged students to costly out-of-district programs.
Special Education Services
In addition, Menotomy provides speech, physical and occupational therapy services for preschool-aged students who live in Arlington who qualify for specific services but who do not qualify to attend Menotomy. These students are brought in by a guardian and come to Menotomy only for their specific services.
An inclusion-based preschool like Menotomy, must have a balance of special education and general education students who serve as peer models. “Inclusion-based” programming provides a continuum of services in the least restrictive environment. More plainly, inclusion secures opportunities for students with disabilities to learn alongside their non-disabled peers. Inclusion happens when children with and without disabilities participate and learn together in the same classes.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act clearly states that all children with disabilities should be educated with non-disabled children their own age, to the maximum extent appropriate, and have access to the general education curriculum. At Menotomy, 49% of students have disabilities and 51% do not have disabilities in the inclusion classrooms. The district has a sub-separate program that is all special education students, and one classroom is dedicated to this program for students with qualifying disabilities and significantly higher needs which cannot be fulfilled in an inclusion classroom
Student Qualifications and Tuition
As required by the state of Massachusetts, students who qualify for special education preschool services do not pay tuition to attend. Children who do not have a qualifying disability pay tuition and are admitted through a lottery system.
Depending on space availability, those spots for students who do not have a qualifying disability are also open to Arlington Public Schools faculty and administration who reside in and out of Arlington. Faculty and administrators who live in or out of Arlington who send their children to Menotomy pay the same tuition as Arlington residents.
Early Childhood Education Opportunities for AHS Students
There are four elective courses offered by Arlington High School through the Family and Consumer Science (FACS) department that provide high school students with opportunities to work in a hands-on environment in the preschool. Child Development Studies courses are offered to students in grades 9-12. These courses are designed for students interested in studying Early Childhood in college or pursuing careers working with young children such as early childhood or elementary school teachers, daycare providers, child psychologists, pediatricians, or social workers.
Students gain hands-on experience working with three and four year old children in Menotomy. Students apply their knowledge of developmentally appropriate activities for young children by planning, implementing, and evaluating activities for the preschool children in all curriculum areas. The high school also offers a path of courses that, when combined with an internship at Menotomy, may meet the requirements for the ‘Office for Early Education and Care’ certification which allows individuals to work in private early childhood programs as teachers.
Menotomy’s Future Space Needs
In addition to classrooms, the future needs of the preschool include a multi-purpose room for physical therapy, physical education, and whole preschool gatherings as well as outdoor age-appropriate playground areas. Safe drop-off and pick-up areas are needed as well as offices for psychologists, social workers and nurses and spaces for occupational, physical and speech therapy.
Most districts’ state-mandated preschools reside in a public school building. Like Arlington, Medford, Burlington and Reading also house their preschools in the high school. There are logistical and academic synergies between Menotomy and Arlington High School. Given Arlington’s growing student enrollment, there is no room for the preschool in any of the Town’s public schools so it remains part of the High School building project. The Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA) understands Arlington’s need to house Menotomy in the new facility and since the preschool provides state-mandated Special Education services, it may also be eligible for MSBA funding.
There has been some discussion about permanently moving the preschool to the Parmenter School, the building that will be used as the temporary preschool location during construction for the high school. Parmenter, however, does not have enough space to accommodate the preschool’s current program nor its projected enrollment growth. Therefore, Parmenter is not being considered as the permanent home of the Town’s preschool. The current space provided today for Menotomy at AHS is inadequate. In fact, the district created a satellite preschool classroom at the Peirce Elementary School this year to address growing enrollment. Therefore, the plans for the new high school include increased space for Menotomy.
Menotomy Preschool is an integral component of the Arlington Public Schools and contributes to Arlington’s wide range of services and programs that meet the needs of all students.
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