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St Rose Preschool Completes Anniversary Year



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St Rose of Lima School’s preschool opened in the late summer of 2000, and following its 20th anniversary year, school leaders and educators reflected on what has changed in that time.

Monsignor Robert Weiss said the program began small, with two teachers, and it “just took off.”

When Paige Robinson began working for St Rose’s preschool, there was no preschool. There was only the idea of opening the preschool, she remembered recently.

“It was really kind of exciting,” Robinson said. “It was just a convent and they wanted to whip everything up and create a preschool.”

The walls were painted, furniture was chosen, and there was excitement for the program to begin. A few months later, the preschool opened for September. Robinson said there were about 30 children in total in the classes to start, and that quickly swelled to more than 100 in the coming year.

Watching children grow has been “amazing,” Robinson said. Her first students are now college graduates, and her favorite part is that the program is faith-based with Christian values.

“It’s rewarding seeing the kids treating each other with kindness and bringing it back to Christian values,” said Robinson.

After the first year, Monsignor Weiss remembers prospective preschool parents waiting in long lines to register their children for the program. At the time, Newtown’s population had a large number of younger families, and there was a need for preschool programs. Morning and afternoon sessions along with a full-day program were added over time.

“A preschool was a great feeder for the school,” said Monsignor Weiss, noting that each year eighth grade graduates who also graduated from the preschool program reflect on the lessons they have learned at St Rose through their entire education.

St Rose’s preschool currently offers and two- and three-day options for 3-year-olds; a four-day option for 4-year-olds; a five-day transitional kindergarten for 5-year-olds; and a “peek-a-boo 2’s” program for 2-year-olds. Tours are available. For more information about the preschool and its programs e-mail admissions@srles.com or see stroseschool.com/preschool online.

Monsignor Weiss suspects the program’s basis in faith is a big draw for parents, along with the teachers who have been with the program for “a long time.”

“All kudos to the committed staff. You have to be a special person to work in a pre-kindergarten,” said Monsignor Weiss. “They give so much of themselves, their love and their energy, to these kids.”

Monsignor Weiss said his role with the preschool is as a spiritual advisor, and one of his favorite things is to visit the preschool program.

“The joy that exists in that building is just phenomenal,” said Monsignor Weiss.

St Rose Principal Bardhyl Gjoka said the preschool is another way the school helps instill values from an early age for students. He said it is “a place of learning and love and we really provide a wonderful start for children.”

The preschool, Gjoka said, offers a dynamic program that allows pre-kindergarten 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, and transitional 5-year-olds to grow and learn foundational skills that will stay with them through their academic careers. Families who keep their children enrolled through eighth grade often reflect on how grateful they are for the program, Gjoka said. It also recently expanded its program for 2-year-olds.

The largest recent changes came about due to the pandemic, Gjoka reflected, adding that thanks to the preschool’s dedicated and experienced teachers, it was able to overcome challenges.

St Rose, Gjoka observed, is unique for having a preschool that “feeds” directly into the school, and the students who complete preschool to eighth grade at St Rose are distinguished by the ability to look back on their “golden years” when graduating eighth grade.

“It is a testament to the preschool through grade 8 system... It is unique,” said Gjoka, also noting that many of those students go on to be the highest ranked students in their high school graduating classes.

Some of Gjoka’s favorite things to see in the preschool program include students being engaged in projects and the level of growth students exhibit between December and March.

“It’s a great dimension to our school and we really are pleased with the results we have seen,” Gjoka said about the preschool program in general.

Education Reporter Eliza Hallabeck can be reached at eliza@thebee.com.

Some of St Rose of Lima’s first graduating preschool students stand with teachers Paige Robinson, left, and Melissa Sebestyen, right, in 2001.
St Rose of Lima School preschoolers look at a globe during and Earth Day lesson this past school year.
Amelia McRuiz, a transitional kindergarten student, presents her “All About Me” report early in the 2020-21 school year.
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