BARNEGAT – Barnegat Township School District is celebrating a top tier rating of its Pre-K program. The rating comes from Grow NJ Kids, a state-sponsored initiative to raise the quality of early learning and child care throughout the state.
“We are thrilled,” said Jennifer Froehlich, Principal of the Lillian M. Dunfee School, which exclusively houses the Pre-K program. “This recognition just shows the high quality of our programs and the work we put in to ensure our littlest learners get the absolute best start in their educational journey.”
Barnegat began offering free full-day Pre-K in January 2019 thanks to a $4.3 million state grant obtained by the district as part of the state’s Preschool Education Expansion Aid (PEEA). The program started with about 250 students, and now hosts 340 students. Students are immersed in a fun and hands-on learning environment where literacy, math, music, art and science are taught on a level they can understand.
“We work hard to ensure these children are set up for success,” said Froehlich, “Not just academically, but socially and emotionally, too. They learn how to self-regulate, how interact with other children and how to share.”
“We are building a foundation here,” said Superintendent Dr. Brian Latwis. “It’s been a core focus to improve student performance and test scores across the district and we’ve already seen tremendous growth, especially among our youngest learners. I’m so incredibly proud of our staff and administration for achieving this rating – it really shows how hard they work to support our student and give them a great first school experience.”
Grow NJ Kids creates a system that encourages ongoing improvement for early learning programs. A trained rater from Grown NJ Kids conducts the formal assessment based on a variety of factors, including a detailed look at the classrooms, the quality of child care, and the promotion of school-readiness. Pre-Covid, a program could earn up to five stars, but that rating is not currently available for the Grow NJ Kids provisional rating process. Due to COVID restrictions, Barnegat’s Pre-K program was only able to be assessed for a four-star rating, which they were able to obtain.
“We will be reassessed in three years, and it’s my belief that we will earn that fifth star,” said Latwis.
A banner celebrating the success will soon go up at the school.