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An Introduction to Nutley’s New Universal Pre-School

On September 8th, Governor Phil Murphy announced a $26 million state grant to support universal preschool education. The state picked only 27 districts to receive a part of this grant, and Nutley worked hard to make sure it was one of them. 

"It took us working with a team of writers. We wrote the application with a lot of support from different universities and neighboring districts," Superintendent Kent Bania said at a Board of Education meeting on March 20th. "We were awarded preschool funds in September, and we were told we had to be operational in October. And we did that." 

Nutley has received $1.2 million from the grant, the 8th highest amount out of the twenty-seven townships. Each year, Nutley will continue to receive an undetermined amount of money to continue its universal preschool program. Future money will be used to reach their impressive goals and fulfill the state’s many requirements. 

"Currently, we serve 60 students. We received funding to seat 135 students for the 23–24 school year," said April Vitiello, Nutley’s Coordinator for Early Childhood. "A goal of preschool expansion is to steadily increase enrollment and aim to serve 90% of our preschool universe (approximately 550 students) by Year Five of the expansion."

And despite Nutley’s overcrowding problem, space isn’t an issue. While the team behind the preschool program is still working to find a permanent, dedicated space, for now they have a plan.

"For the 23–24 school year, six district classrooms will be located within our elementary buildings and/or in leased space," April Vitiello said. "Additionally, we have partnered with local providers to house three classrooms."

As the preschool program expands, Nutley’s goal is to be able to serve the community without having to enforce a large waitlist for the application process, though the families that are enrolled have nothing but love for the program. 

"It’s been amazing so far. The teachers are amazing, as well as the support staff. I believe the district has gone above and beyond to ensure this program is a well-oiled machine for our town. From the drop-off and pick procedures to guiding the kids through play," said Sophia Burmeo, who has a child in the program. 

Nutley has worked hard to provide educational opportunities for its younger community. The social and educational benefits that preschool develops carry well into both life and higher education, giving young children the foundation for a better future.