As the school district prepares to open a 7th and 8th grade science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) academy at Sandwich High School in 2014, Heritage Museums & Gardens is looking to partner with the district and Sandwich Community School on another STEM initiative; this one catering to preschoolers.
Ellen J. Spear, executive director for Heritage, and Sandwich Community School director Lance D. Kennedy presented the proposal for the first-of-its kind preschool in the country to the school committee Wednesday night.
Ms. Spear said that the plan would be to open the STEM preschool in September 2014, the same time the STEM academy is scheduled to open at the high school. She said that it would be at Heritage Museums, which already has Hidden Hollow, a certified nature classroom that she called an outdoor living laboratory.
“Our board is working on a strategic direction to become a 21st-century learning center for Sandwich,” Ms. Spear said, explaining her organization’s interest in the project. She said that Heritage was “excited to share its resources, particularly in outdoor discovery and STEM curriculum related to it.”
The preschool would be open to 4- and 5-year-old children, and students would be taught by preschool teachers already trained, certified and working at the Sandwich Community School, Ms. Spear said.
She said the target number of students would be 40, and she sees the preschool as a full-day program, with some half-day options. She noted that the plan is for the preschool to be a year-round program that would fold into Heritage Museums’ existing summer camp program.
Ms. Spear said she had not developed a business plan for the preschool, so she could not answer questions regarding operating or tuition costs. She did tell the committee that Heritage Museums, being a nonprofit organization, would have certain state and federal funding grants available to them that would not be available to either the town or the Sandwich Community School. She said that the unique partnership for the STEM preschool should help with those funding opportunities.
“This really is a national model, and I’m hopeful that those with the purse strings on the federal level will understand that and will help us fund this,” she said.
The school committee liked the idea.
Ms. Spear said that her next step is to develop the business plan, which she hopes to have ready for presentation to the school committee by the end of March.