Montrose Early Childhood Center Opening Late, But Saving District Money

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An historic photo of Montrose School on Clark St. in South Orange, NJ

An historic photo of Montrose School on Clark St. in South Orange, NJ

The Montrose Early Childhood Center will open later than originally anticipated but will be bringing about $1 million in out-of-district placements back into the South Orange-Maplewood School District.

The former Montrose School on Clark Street in South Orange — which has served as an elementary school, a YMCA childcare center, and, most recently, an alternative high school program — is now a preschool for special needs and general education students, serving three-, four- and five-year-old children.

SOMSD Business Administrator Cheryl Schneider told the Board of Education at its August 24 meeting that 15 local preschool students who previously would have been served out of district at a cost of $75,000 each would now be served in district at the Montrose Early Childhood Center — or MECC.

At a meeting last December, Schneider told the Board that the incremental cost to the district in the first year of the program would be $173,300, which the district anticipated would be offset by:

    • seven prekindergarten students currently attending out of district schools coming back to the district, saving roughly a half million dollars, and
    • six out-of-district students attending the school, paid for by the sending districts

This would lead to a net savings to the district of $316,700.

At the August 24 Board of Ed meeting, Board member Johanna Wright asked Schneider for an update on Montrose enrollment numbers.

Montrose Early Childhood Center, Photo by James Baker

Montrose Early Childhood Center, Photo by James Baker

Schneider said that, as of mid-August, the center was at 52% of eventual full enrollment, with 60 students enrolled in MECC. Eighteen students were paying the full $800/month fee with the others paying a reduced fee on a sliding scale based on financial need.

Schneider reported that 36 of the students were special education (35 full-day students and 1 half-day student ).

Regarding full enrollment, Schneider said, “We did not expect to be there this year. A couple of classrooms we did not staff because we knew we would not be at full enrollment this year.”

In December, Schneider reported that the goals of the program were to reduce the number of students the district pays to send to programs in other towns, to accommodate rapidly growing enrollment throughout the district, and to gain revenue from tuition-paying students from outside the district.

A major topic of discussion at the August 24 Board of Education meeting was the fact that the Montrose building would not be ready for occupancy until later this month.

Superintendent of School Dr. John Ramos explained that the Montrose building would be ready a few weeks later than originally planned due to uncontrollable delays by PSE&G. Schneider said that, now that PSE&G had completed its work, “crews are working to get the building ready for occupancy.”

In the meantime, orientation for Montrose Center students will take place on Tuesday, September 8, at alternate locations, and regular classes will begin on Wednesday, September 9, also at alternate locations. Parents have been notified. Students eligible for transportation will be bused to the alternate locations until Montrose opens (currently anticipated to be around the 3rd week of September).

Schneider wrote in an email to Village Green, “Students will be meeting with their regular teachers and classmates, just in a different location and extended day programming has been coordinated with they YMCA based on the temporary placements.”

Read Carolyn Maynard-Parisi’s report on the Montrose Early Childhood Center from December 2014 here.

Read Marcia Worth-Baker’s interview with MECC Director Renee Joyce in Matters Magazine here (see page 46).

Click on any image below for a slideshow of exterior shots of the Montrose Early Childhood Center, courtesy of James Baker.

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