Welcome to prekindergarten!
No step is more important in your child’s education than the first one. That’s why the City School District of Albany is dedicated to building a solid educational foundation for success starting with our youngest learners.
This page is the online version of the Pre-K Handbook we offer to families, which is also available to print as a Google Doc.
A few words about pre-K …
Prekindergarten is more than simply a doorway into your child’s formal education experience.
Research shows that high-quality prekindergarten increases a child’s chances of succeeding in school and in life. Children who attend high-quality pre-K programs are less likely to be held back, less likely to need special education and more likely to graduate from high school. They also have higher earnings. (Source: Pew Charitable Trust Foundation).
Our school district offers high-quality prekindergarten that is “developmentally appropriate,” meaning it respects the age and individual needs of each child. Our caring and responsive prekindergarten teachers work to create a welcoming environment for both parents and children that allows learning to flourish.
Peer into a pre-K classroom and it may look like all fun and games. However, there’s an intense amount of brainwork going on. For example, your child’s building blocks and train tracks aren’t just entertaining – they’re teaching problem-solving and physics. This meaningful playing and learning takes place in a variety of ways throughout the school day.
Whether school-based or located at one of our community-based partners, all of our pre-K classrooms follow the same basic curriculum that provides a combination of both structure and flexibility. Structure takes the form of helping your child develop a routine and good learning habits. At the same time, your child will have the opportunity to investigate new things and make choices about the activities they want to take part in.
We recognize the role parents and guardians play as teachers and advocates before and after their children begin attending school. We look forward to working with you to give your child a solid foundation for school success!
How pre-K supports your child
Our prekindergarten classes encourage children to be enthusiastic learners – active and creative explorers who have the confidence to try out new ideas and to think about their own interests and thoughts.
Pre-K classes help your child grow in the following areas of development.
This is what children need to know and understand about their world and how they apply that knowledge and understanding.
In prekindergarten, your child will have the opportunity to problem-solve using materials such as counting bears, color cubes, puzzles, building blocks and their imagination. Our teachers will encourage your child to ask questions and think logically by sorting, classifying, comparing, making patterns and counting.
Communication, language and literacy
This is how children understand, create and communicate meaning.
Your child will have the opportunity to use words to communicate with others, to be listened to and to participate in conversations with others. He or she also will use classroom materials and props to enhance language and support discussion of themed activities.
Physical development and health
This is a child’s physical health and ability to engage in daily activities.
Your child will have the opportunity to increase their large-muscle skills by running, jumping, throwing and catching, and increase their small-muscle skills by cutting, drawing, lacing and writing.
Social and emotional learning
This is a child's ability to form positive relationships that give meaning to their experiences at home, in school and in the larger community.
Your child will have the opportunity to develop independence, self confidence and self-control by communicating, following rules and routines, and developing peer relationships as part of a group. Children will be provided opportunities to take part in activities that allow them to identify their feelings and what causes them.
Approaches to learning
This is how children are involved in learning and acquiring knowledge.
Your child will have the opportunity to actively explore different objects and materials in prekindergarten. Time in the daily schedule allows children to learn and investigate new things.
The City School District of Albany follows New York State Prekindergarten Learning Standards: A Resource for School Success. These learning standards provide a framework for teachers to plan learning experiences that are appropriate and interesting to children in their classrooms.
The activities we plan for children, how we organize the environment and how we plan the daily schedule are designed to support the goals of our curriculum and give your child a strong foundation for future school success.
A typical day
Here’s a snapshot of a day in pre-K. Please note that the times below may vary somewhat because of scheduling, activities planned for the day and the needs of children in the classroom.
Children are welcomed and unpack their things. Each child is assigned a personal cubby for their coat, backpack and other belongings.
Circle time (20 minutes)
Everyone comes together to learn about the day’s activities and make choices for center time. (See below)
Center time (2 hours)
Each prekindergarten classroom is arranged in learning centers, areas of the classroom devoted to a specific subject or theme. Children choose from activities in centers that include dramatic play, math, puzzles, blocks, art, sensory tables, library, writing, music and computers.
Clean up (10 minutes)
Children learn when it is time to stop an activity, follow directions and put toys and materials where they belong. This takes cooperation from the classroom community.
Story time (15 minutes)
Teachers read to children throughout the day – big books, poems, rhymes and themed stories. Reading and discussion of books enhance listening skills and comprehension; questions and conversation help develop vocabulary.
Music and movement (15 minutes)
Children express themselves by singing, dancing and playing instruments.
Small-group instruction (20 minutes)
Children receive instruction in small groups or individually. This specific instruction is geared to meet their ability level in language, literacy and math concepts and skills. The instruction is given through a variety of hands-on ways, using various instructional strategies.
Recess/outdoor time (40 minutes)
Weather permitting, children in prekindergarten classrooms have an opportunity to go outdoors every day. During this time, children will participate in a teacher-planned activity and then have free time.
Meal and snack time (30 minutes for lunch; 10 minutes for snack)
Meals and snacks are offered daily. Check with your child’s site for the menu and snack options, since this varies by school and classroom.
Rest time (scheduled daily)
It is important for students to take some time to rest their body and mind during the busy pre-K day. A typical rest time lasts about 45 minutes; however, the length of rest time may vary depending on the ages and changing needs of students over the course of the school year. Teachers will adjust rest time depending on the needs and sleep patterns of students. Quiet activities are offered to children who do not sleep.
Getting off to a good start
Helping children separate from their parents before school is an important part of our program. This may be your child’s first experience with separation. It is vital that we work as a team and are sensitive to your child’s needs and feelings.
Our experience has shown that a child will feel comfortable with prekindergarten when their parent or guardian is comfortable with it. Our goal is to build a positive relationship with your child and you.
Here are some ways to help your child transition into their new classroom:
- Show your child their cubby where personal things are stored. You may want to hang a picture of you and your child in the cubby.
- Reassure your child that someone will be there to pick them up and that they are safe.
- Let your child know that you are interested in this new experience and cannot wait to hear all about their day.
Every child is different, and it may take some children more time than others to become comfortable. Teachers have experience and training to help children make the transition between home and school.
If you have any concerns or questions about how your child is doing, please speak with their teachers.
Expectations, rules and routines
Clear expectations and routines help children feel safe and confident.
From the start, we will reinforce the behavior that is expected from your child. This is known as “Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports,” or PBIS. These research-based strategies are designed to improve behavior in the classroom and throughout the school. The key to its success is making sure that children understand the rules in order to follow them, and they know rules are in place to keep them safe. In prekindergarten, we will gently reinforce expectations and rules throughout the school day.
Routines also help children feel safe. Your child will have a routine each day. Please see the “A Typical Day” section to learn more about these routines.
Drop-off and pickup
Please drop off and pick up your child at the times specific to their prekindergarten. Please do not drop off your child early or pick up your child late.
And when your child goes to kindergarten …
Your child’s teacher will create a plan that outlines specific activities to support successful transition from prekindergarten to kindergarten. That plan may include interactions or visits with kindergarten teachers and writing letters to current kindergarten students (who write back!).
Memos and more
Check your child’s backpack and home folder every day for memos, reminders and announcements. Please remember to check, since sometimes notices are time-sensitive or require a reply.
Every week your child’s teacher will send home a classroom newsletter highlighting what the class is doing and any special events that may be taking place. It also will include a brief note about your child.
The district’s Office of Early Childhood will send home newsletters in the fall, winter and spring with tips on how to support what your child is learning in school at home and insights from early childhood experts.
You also can check with your child’s teacher to learn about opportunities to volunteer in the classroom.
One formal date is set aside for parent teacher conferences in November. Parents are encouraged to request conferences with teachers throughout the year as needed.
Your input is important
The City School District of Albany is committed to creating and maintaining positive relationships with families.
If you have questions about what goes on in your child’s classroom, please contact their teacher directly at the school or program. If you have general questions about the early childhood program, please call the school district’s Early Childhood Office at 518-475-6591.
We realize students miss school for health or other valid reasons, and that COVID-19 has posed many challenges to families. But absences add up, and missing just two days every month puts students at risk of falling behind.
Our prekindergarten programs meet 6.5 hours per day Monday through Friday and follow the City School District of Albany academic calendar. Schools take attendance each day, including when a student is late or leaves early.
Please see that your child attends school every day and on time. This will help your child establish a routine. Children thrive on structure, want to be part of a group and need to know what to expect throughout the day.
An absence refers to missing school, being late or leaving early. Please call the school and/or program if your child will be absent. Refer to the “Your child’s health” section if you’re not sure whether to send a sick child to school.
In addition to the phone call about your child’s absence, you also must provide school with a written or emailed excuse within five days of every absence or late arrival; the excuse must include the date of absence and the reason. A doctor’s note is required after five consecutive days of absences.
Lengthy or frequent absences with notes may be subject to inquiry. If a doctor’s note is not submitted after five days, the absence will be marked unexcused. If you do not report your child’s absence, an appointed attendance person will call you to document why your child is not in school.
The City School District of Albany strives for our students to maintain a 95 percent attendance rate, or no more than nine excused absences per school year. We closely monitor absences (excused and unexcused), tardiness and early departures.
Absences fall into two categories: excused and unexcused.
- Personal illness
- Illness or death in the family
- Unsafe roads or inclement weather
- Religious observance
- Required court appearances
- Medical/dental appointments
- Approved school sponsored activity
- Absence caused by homelessness
- Sibling drop-off or pick-up from school
- Lack of required immunizations
- Missed the bus
- Late parent/guardian drop-off
- Lack of proper clothing/personal car
Unexcused absences have consequences
- 5 unexcused absences – As a parent or guardian, you will receive a letter from the principal or program director.
- 10 unexcused absences – As a parent or guardian, you will receive a letter from the principal or program director warning that your child is in danger of losing their prekindergarten spot.
- 15 unexcused absences – As a parent or guardian, you will receive a letter notifying you that your child has lost their prekindergarten spot.
It is important that your child come to school each day and on time in order to reap the benefits of our early childhood programs. The school district will make every effort to support you, but excessive lateness and absences could result in your child losing their prekindergarten spot.
Dressing for success
Every day your child will engage in art, science, music, movement and more. They need to be free to paint, dance and run. Please be sure to put them in casual clothes that can get dirty.
Children do best in comfortable, functional clothing and sturdy shoes or sneakers. Party shoes and sandals are discouraged since they are not safe for active outdoor play. Your child’s class will go outside at least once every day, so they should be dressed for changes in the weather. Sometimes a beautiful, warm morning can turn into a chilly afternoon, so outerwear (such as jackets, hats, mittens, boots and snow pants) should be brought in during the colder months.
Your child needs to keep a complete change of clothes (including underwear and socks) at school. All clothing should be clearly marked with your child’s name. If your child’s clothing is sent home, please send in another change of clothes promptly.
Keep toys at home
As a rule, your child’s toys should stay at home. Individual classrooms may have special show-and-tell policies for their classrooms, but keep toys at home unless you hear otherwise from your child’s teacher. Toy guns and toy weapons are NOT allowed in school.
Screenings and progress monitoring
State regulations require all new students to be screened with developmental learning tools.
The Early Screening Inventory screens for cognitive development, motor development, and language and literacy skills. This screening is completed by the teacher during the school day and is conducted through play-based, hands-on activities.
The Ages and Stages Questionnaire, which we ask families to complete, helps monitor your child’s social and emotional development. It includes questions about how your child regulates their behavior, how they express feelings and how they communicate with others.
The information from both screenings will help your child’s teacher plan activities and learning experiences to support your child.
We monitor your child’s progress throughout the school year, evaluating growth and skills learned. Progress monitoring helps your child’s teacher plan lessons and activities for the class and set individual goals for your child. This information and observation notes will be used to report your child’s progress throughout the year.
Please know that screening and progress monitoring results will not prevent your child from entering kindergarten.
Building on your child’s progress
Your child may have an occasional homework assignment and it usually consists of activities to be completed as a family. For example, you may be asked to create a family collage. Homework typically involves what was learned in class and the current theme.
All classrooms have lending libraries that allow families to borrow a bag of five books to read and talk about at home. Once one bag is completed and returned, another can be borrowed.
Reading with your child is one of the best ways you can help prepare them for success in school. Reading aloud will strengthen your child’s interest in books and reading. It also will develop their language and listening skills.
Your child loves to spend quality time with you and you are the most important person in their life. If you read books, so will your child! Developing this passion in the critical preschool years will lead to a lifetime of literacy. It’s so simple: All it takes is a book and some time.
Besides using the classroom lending library, we encourage you to visit the local branch of the Albany Public Library in your neighborhood. The library offers workshops throughout the year for children and families as well as opportunities to choose books that are similar to those read in your child’s classroom.
When bad weather hits, school districts have the option to hold a distance learning day or a traditional snow day. The City School District of Albany will evaluate these decisions on a case-by-case basis, including whether a two-hour delay may be an option.
Snow and ice cause most weather-related school closings and delays. But since thousands of students walk to and from school each day in our district, we also closely monitor severe cold and wind chill conditions.
If the temperature drops into the single digits or below zero, or if the wind chill dips below minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, the district may delay school or dismiss early. Wind chills of minus 40 degrees are considered dangerous and a medical reason to close school and suspend outdoor activity.
The safety of students, staff and families drives any decision to delay, close early or cancel school because of the weather.
Learn about how to stay in touch by visiting the Communications section of our site.
Your child’s health
As required by the New York State Education Department, you will need to submit proof that your child has had a complete physical exam and up-to-date immunizations. The immunization record will be reviewed to ensure compliance with state regulations.
Children who are enrolled at a community based partner program that is OCFS licensed will not be able to begin or attend their program if they do not have a current physical (which was done within the last 12 months) and do not have the required current immunizations as noted on the child’s immunization record.
Getting sick in school
If your child becomes sick at school, we will contact you and request that you pick them up.
To reduce the risk of children spreading illnesses to each other, your child’s teacher will:
- Teach the appropriate way to wash hands using soap and water;
- Teach children to cover their coughs or sneezes using the elbow, arm or sleeve instead of the hand when a tissue is unavailable; and
- Teach children to properly dispose of tissues.
Being sick at home
Please keep your child home if they:
- Have a cold with a fever of 100.0 or greater; and/or
- Have a communicable or contagious disease such as pink eye, strep throat or head lice. Please contact the school nurse if your child has a communicable or contagious disease.
Medicine at school
Families whose children require taking medication at school will need to provide the school nurse with:
- A doctor’s note stating medication, dosage and time of administration;
- Parental permission for medication administration; and
- The actual medication.
This applies to any medication to be administered at school, including over-the-counter medication. Please be reminded that all medications need to be picked up at the end of the school year from the nurse.
Our expectation is that all incoming prekindergarten students will be potty-trained when they enter school. We recognize this is not possible for some children with medical issues. If your child is not potty-trained due to a medical issue, you, the school nurse and your child’s teacher will create a “potty plan” that will be updated quarterly or as needed.
If your child has a disability
The City School District of Albany is committed to making sure all students receive a quality education that fits within the framework of their individual needs. The Special Education Department provides specially designed instruction, services and programs to help meet the unique needs of students with disabilities.
If your child received early intervention services as an infant or toddler up to age 3 and may still need special education, your service coordinator will assist you with transition planning and making a referral to the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE).
If your preschool-age child (3-5 years old) did not receive early intervention services but has some delays or lags in development – difficulty talking, moving around, thinking, learning or is facing physical or behavioral challenges – you, or professionals who know your child, may decide that further evaluation is needed.
In that case, you can contact the chairperson of the school district's Committee on Preschool Special Education, who can assist you with completing the referral process:
Your child’s class may take a field trip to the library, fire station or museum, or attend a local performance. Your child’s teacher will notify you before the trip and send home a permission slip that will require a parent or guardian signature.
For some field trips, your child’s teacher may ask for parent volunteers to join the class.
The City School District of Albany values diversity and is committed to reflecting the diversity in the community. To that end, our program provides an environment that nurtures, supports and celebrates each child’s unique identity, self and family pride, as well as overall classroom diversity. Our curriculum has lessons, materials and activities that support all children in developing an awareness and appreciation of their own culture and other cultures as well.
Reporting child abuse and maltreatment
State law requires early childhood education professionals to report any suspicion of child abuse and/or maltreatment to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. If concerns are brought to our attention, we will carefully assess the situation before making a report to the register.
All City School District of Albany programs that serve children from birth through prekindergarten are overseen by the district’s Office of Early Childhood, which is based at Albany School of Humanities (ASH).
You can reach the office by calling 518-475-6591 or contact staff at the emails below. ASH is located at 108 Whitehall Road.