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Filling in That ‘Gap’ Year

Kindergarten class at Temple Beth Ami addresses need for smaller classroom setting.

— What to do if a five-year-old is not ready to leave nursery school to attend a larger public or private school kindergarten class? Some children are emotionally not ready to move on to a kindergarten class of 20 or more students in a K – 5 elementary school. If a child is immature, timid, has difficulty paying attention, does not feel comfortable socializing or is simply not ready to tackle the kindergarten curriculum, then a solution is to enroll him or her in a smaller kindergarten program which allows for one more year in a more intimate, supportive environment. This is also a program for students whose birth dates make them the youngest in their class.

Temple Beth Ami Nursery School will be offering a class next September to bridge the gap between the small nurturing nursery school and a public or private school larger kindergarten class. This class will be capped at 15 students, and will meet all the MCPS standards. Most of the students will advance to first grade after they complete kindergarten at Beth Ami, but parents will have the option to decide if their child should go on to first grade or attend kindergarten in a different school at the end of the “gap” year.

Potomac mom Suzy Balamaci has chosen to enroll her son Reece in this kindergarten class next year. Even though her older son is a student at Potomac Elementary School, she explains why she chose Beth Ami: “I feel that Reece will benefit from the smaller classroom setting and from being in a school where every teacher knows each student. Kindergarten is such an important year and I want him to be comfortable in a familiar setting.”

Potomac resident Ellen Bortz has taught pre-kindergarten (ages 4 – 5) at Beth Ami for 19 years. About half of her current students are planning to stay for the new kindergarten program. She explains how this school is unique: “We have gone from a teacher-driven specific topic curriculum to a child-centered emerging curriculum. This means that we allow the children to explore topics which they are interested in — and develop our curriculum around their interests. Using the topics and the learning styles of each child, we develop activities which build skills in reading, writing and arithmetic.”

Nursery School Director Paula Sayag said, “We draw students from Potomac, North Potomac and Rockville. Beth Ami is a reform synagogue and many parents want their children to receive a faith-based education. One of the wonderful things about this 23-year-old program is that many of the staff has been here since the school was founded, and it is a real community.”

To learn more about the new kindergarten and about the Beth Ami Nursery School, contact Paula Sayag at 301-340-6818. Temple Beth Ami is located at 14330 Travilah Road, Rockville.