District targets youngest learners with playgroup
N.Y. (Sept. 25, 2018) – The youngest future
Falcons in the City School District of Albany enrolled in their first
ever class Tuesday. It’s called “Play, Learn, Soar,” and it’s a brand
new early education program offered to infants and children up to age 3
at Arbor Hill Elementary School.
“I want them to make friends and be comfortable with other
people,” said Elaine Evans, who attended with her 8- and 19-month-olds.
“Then they won’t be nervous when they start school.”
The monthly playdate allows caregivers and their children to
participate in activities together and separately. Its goal is to
promote healthy parent-child relationships, early literacy, and it
stresses the importance of a strong school-home partnership.
“It will empower parents and encourage them to recognize the role
they play in their child’s development,” said Shanae Lawrence, Arbor
Hill Elementary’s community school coordinator who implemented the
first-of-its-kind program in the district. “Through this approach, we
hope that it will assist with improving future student academic
The district has offered more than 1,000 prekindergarten seats for
3- and 4-year-old students for many years at all 12 elementary schools
and at several community locations in partnership with local agencies.
“Play, Learn, Soar” aims to engage students at even younger ages,
another way the district is working to close the achievement gap.
are providing a familiar and convenient environment for our parents and
community members to get involved in,” Lawrence said. “Through PLS we
can establish relationships, encourage parents to get more involved, and
eventually work together on improving our student’s academic
During the first playdate Tuesday, the five little ones who
attended played together, read stories, danced, sang and enjoyed a
District staff and community partners, like the Child Care Council
and Albany Barn, provided tips to the moms on how to best engage their
children in their early years and offer fun activities that double as
"I want her to experience something good for her so she can bond
with me and other babies,” said Lashay Morris, who attended with her
The program is made possible through the annual Community Schools
funding the district receives from the state ($3.5 million for the
2018-19 school year district-wide). In addition to Arbor Hill
Elementary, Tony Clement Center for Education, Giffen Memorial
Elementary School, Philip J. Schuyler Achievement Academy, Sheridan
Preparatory Academy and Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Technology
(TOAST) are also community schools.
Community schools goals include providing services for students,
parents and guardians such as mental health, social, legal, career,
English-language, parenting and adult educational services.
The next “Play, Learn, Soar” playdate at Arbor Hill Elementary is
scheduled for Oct. 23 at 9:30 a.m. The program is free and open to
anyone in Albany but registration is required.
If you have questions or would like to sign-up, please contact
Lawrence at (518) 475-6628 or
The mission of
the City School District of Albany is
to work in partnership with our diverse community to engage every
learner in a robust educational program designed to provide the
knowledge and skills necessary for success. The district
about 9,500 students in 18 elementary, middle and high schools. In
addition to neighborhood schools, the district includes several magnet
schools and programs, as well as other innovative academic opportunities
for students, including four themed academies
at Albany High School.