Community Day School is exploring the possibility of offering a pre-K class in the fall of 2013.
CDS is the only private K-eight school in the area that does not have a pre-K program, according to Avi Baran Munro, head of school.
A pre-K program could boost enrollment at the Solomon Schechter-affiliated day school, Munro said. She noted that children entering a school at the pre-K level often stay in that school at the elementary level, then continue on through middle school.
Both Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh and Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, the area’s other two Jewish day schools, offer an early childhood program.
While acknowledging a CDS pre-K could be in competition with existing Jewish pre-K programs in the area — such as those offered by Congregation Beth Shalom and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh — Munro said that CDS aims to work in cooperation with the other schools.”
“We are discussing ways in which we could partner with other schools,” Munro said. “We could be in competition with other programs. We understand our decision could impact other programs, and we are looking for ways to make this a benefit for the community.
“We have been having open conversations with Beth Shalom, which has been a great feeder for CDS,” Munro continued, adding that CDS talked with the JCC as well.
While Munro said that it was too early to say how a CDS pre-K would differ from the offerings at Beth Shalom, she noted that because of the Judaic strained staff at CDS, its prospective program would be “unique.”
“It would be part of the K to eight school, so there are resources we have in place that we could employ,” she said.
Munro stressed that CDS was eager to pursue opportunities for cost and resource sharing with other Jewish pre-K providers, including teacher training.
Beth Shalom and CDS historically have had a symbiotic relationship, noted Stefi Kirschner, president of Beth Shalom.
“Beth Shalom has always been the largest feeder into CDS through the history of the school, and our congregation has benefited by having a Schechter Day School in the community,” Kirschner said, adding that a Schechter school is a draw for new families to Pittsburgh, who may then choose to join a Conservative synagogue like Beth Shalom.
“We have expertise to share with CDS,” she said.
Beth Shalom’s Early Learning Center, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, currently provides early childhood education to about 100 children, ages six months to prekindergarten, Kirschner said.
“Now, some of our students may leave our program to go to CDS’ preschool,” she acknowledged.
While “about six to eight” of Beth Shalom Preschool students who will be in the pre-K group next year have siblings at CDS, Kirschner does not think all of those children necessarily will transfer to a CDS pre-K.
“Parents will have many different factors to consider,” she said. “We have 25 years of experience and a great faculty. Community Day doesn’t have a track record yet for a pre-K class.”
Despite the potential competition, Kirschner is looking forward to finding ways to collaborate with CDS.
“We should take advantage of working together and collaborating,” she said. “In the spirit of collaborating, we are open-minded. Our goal is to engage families with children in the Jewish community
(Toby Tabachnick can be reach at email@example.com.)