Classes getting younger as CDS expands its pre-K program

Classes getting younger as CDS expands its pre-K program

Community Day School is expanding its early childhood education program.

Beginning in the 2016-17 academic year, according to officials, the program will include a 3-year-old class at the Squirrel Hill Jewish day school.

According to Melissa Sevimli, director of early childhood education at the

42-year-old CDS, renovations have already begun on the space that will house the additional children. Class size will be determined once the renovations are complete and in accordance with state licensing regulations.

After repeated requests from families and even staff, Sevimli said, the school decided to expand its pre-kindergarten program.

“We had quite a few parents who said, ‘I wish you accepted younger kids and had a 3-year-old room,’ and so after hearing that, we decided we wanted to be another option,” said Sevimli.

Jennifer Bails, the school’s director of marketing and public relations, added that the day after the announcement last week, three current CDS families expressed interest in enrolling their younger children.

“There’s clearly a demand,” said Bails.

Funding for the expansion is being provided by a grant from the Charles M. Morris Charitable Trust.

The new program will use the same Reggio Emilia-inspired approach as the rest of the preschool.

“The idea is that children are citizens in the classroom, we really focus on what they’re interested in,” said Sevimli. “We explore their curiosities because English is everywhere, math is everywhere, Jewish culture in their lives is everywhere, so let’s see how it fits into their world so they can make stronger connections to it.”

Up until now, various local programs have fed students to CDS as they got older, including Congregation Beth Shalom. Sevimli said the expansion would not have an adverse effect on those programs.

“Everyone has their own needs. This isn’t about taking anything from anyone,” she explained. “It’s about making sure the Jewish families in the community have strong choices. It’s about providing that open door for them, where they can have the Jewish learning, they can have the advanced academics, they can have what they need.”

Jennifer Perer-Slattery, director of Congregation Beth Shalom’s Early Learning Center, shared that view.

“Each family will find where they would like their child to join,” she said. “We have infants, toddlers and preschoolers and are accredited by the National Association for Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and maintain four stars from the Pennsylvania Keystone STARS program. I don’t feel this is a competition at all. The overall goal is that students receive a great Jewish education.”

Applications are currently being accepted for the new program; CDS will be recruiting this summer and fall and throughout next year. As for a name for the program, Sevimli smiled and said a current pre-K student has already suggested “pre-pre-K.”

Dave Rullo can be reached at