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Back to school: Woodside preschool changes more than its building

 

While as many as 60 construction workers swarmed over Woodside Elementary School's campus each day last week, it was a little hard to believe the school would be ready to welcome more than 400 students by its Aug. 25 opening day of school.

The first of the three major projects underway on the school grounds this summer is a new two-classroom building for the tuition-based preschool that operates at Woodside.

The preschool is scheduled for completion by Sept. 15. A new design lab is to be done by Sept. 29 and the new multi-purpose auditorium by March 15. New roofs and underground utilities and drainage improvements were completed over the summer.

Woodside Superintendent Beth Polito said the preschool will have far more than its brand-new building to be proud of.

The district has been working to improve the preschool, which has about 44 students in two classes, for the past four years, the superintendent said.

One of the points of pride is the preschool's "stellar staff," she said. Tom Limbert, who is the preschool's director, will be going into his third year at the school. Mr. Limbert is a parenting coach, a published author and was head teacher at Stanford's Bing Nursery School from 1996 to 2006.

Mr. Limbert is great at helping parents "with the hard decisions that you have to make as a parent," Superintendent Polito said. "He's a really great addition to our administrative team."

When Mr. Limbert came on board, he helped the district examine the preschool's program, including by visits to other area preschools, such as Bing, T'enna Preschool at the Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto, and some Montessori preschools.

"We did our research on what is best practice in early childhood education," Superintendent Polito said. The research paid off, she said, and this is the third year the school has been full with a wait list. She said 90 percent of the families with children in the school live in the Woodside school district.

What the preschool ended up with is a "balance between academic readiness and a constructivist approach," which means allowing children to learn by doing things, she said. "We're still very much a play-based program" Superintendent Polito said.

Having the preschool on the campus is good for the school as well as the families that take part in it, she said. Because the preschool program is coordinated with the school's kindergarten program, children are prepared to succeed in school, Superintendent Polito said.

Parents also get to know parents of children their children may be going to school with through eighth grade. "It's a bonding experience," Superintendent Polito said. "You really need each other at that stage in life."

In addition, the school's obligation to provide support services for children as young as 3 who may need additional resources is made easier if children are already on the campus, she said.

One thing the changes in the preschool did not mean is a big increase in tuition. Tuition went up 5 percent last year, Superintendent Polito said, but it was the first increase in eight years.

"We are still contributing to the district budget," she said, "not much, but at least we're covering all our costs."

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