The Waltham Public Schools Pre-Kindergarten program is under the auspices of the special education department and is located at the Northeast Elementary and the William F. Stanley Elementary Schools. It is primarily designed to service children with disabilities as diagnosed by special education evaluations. One of the services offered is an Integrated Preschool Program. In these classrooms, children without special education needs also attend. There is a tuition fee for the typical children. Applications and selections for this program are done in the fall of the academic year prior to the one in which the child will be enrolled. Qualified applicants must be either three or four years of age by September 1 of the year they will attend; (2)live in Waltham, and (3) possess strong pre-academic skills. It is a part time program - two hours and twenty five minutes per day two days per week for three year old children and three days per week for four year old children. There are a very limited number of openings and selection is based on what children will be the best match for programming needs.
The Waltham Public Schools Special Education Pre-Kindergarten program puts into practice the philosophy of providing students with special needs and inclusive educational experience by giving them the tools to be successful in that setting through first allowing them to develop independence, social skills, and confidence along with academic and language skills in a setting that is the least restrictive for them. For many, this may be a substantially separate non-categorical classroom with a smaller teacher to student ratio than typically found in an integrated preschool program. As an integral part of this program, they interact with typically developing peers in a multitude of informal settings such as on the playground, during group story time, or at performances from visiting artists while receiving specialized instruction and support throughout the day. As the team monitors each individual's child progress, more inclusive experiences are provided which may eventually lead to full time placement in an inclusive classroom. The goal for every child is to use the years before Kindergarten as the most formative for overall skill development that will allow for optimal success in inclusive settings both in and out of the school environment as the child grows.
A wide range of programming and services are provided to students with disabilities. These services are individualized and outlined on an Individualized Educational Program. The needs, as diagnosed by the team, are the guiding factors in determining what services will be provided and the goals and objectives of these services. Service provision can range from discrete therapy only, such as speech, Occupational Therapy, or Physical Therapy to a full classroom placement with many options and combinations in between depending upon what will best allow the student to develop his/her skills to participate effectively in age appropriate activities. Referrals for evaluations come from many sources including but not limited to parents, community based preschool programs, Department of Child and Family Services, hospitals, pediatricians, and Early Intervention.
Screenings to determine if special education evaluations are warranted are offered throughout the school year. Parents must call the Early Childhood Coordinator at 781-314-5653 to schedule an appointment.
Our Pre-Kindergarten classrooms typically run from Tuesday through Friday. The morning session hours are 9:15 to 11:40 AM. The afternoon session is 1:05 to 3:30 PM. In addition, there are intensive special education classes which run Tuesday through Friday from 9:15 AM to 2:20 PM. At the Stanley Elementary School, there is an Applied Behavioral Analysis Based Program which runs Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM. This program is designed to service children with a diagnosis on the Autism spectrum who, as determined by the team, have needs that cannot be met in one of our other programs. A diagnosis of autism spectrum or PDD/NOS does not automatically necessitate placement in this program. It is one of several options for the team to consider when developing the Individualized Educational Program.
Class sizes are mandated by the Department of Early Education and Care. Substantially separate classrooms have a maximum of nine students with a teacher and a paraprofessional. Inclusive, sometimes called integrated, classrooms have a maximum enrollment of fifteen students (maximum ratio of seven with special needs and eight typically developing). The classrooms operate on rolling enrollment, accepting students throughout the year as they turn three years of age and are deemed in need of special education services.