Coastal Kids Preschool in Damariscotta recently received accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, making the school a Maine Roads to Quality level-four program, the highest designation offered by the state’s early care and education professional network.
In a recent interview at the preschool, Executive Director Mimi Reeves said the accreditation is “a really major accomplishment,” citing the lengthy and thorough process necessary to obtain it. “You work for a long, long, long time getting the paperwork ready” – about a year, said Reeves.
“We had to document over 350 criteria,” said Coastal Kids Preschool Education Director Priscilla Congdon, thumbing through a thick binder of paperwork. “It’s taken us since 2013, since we started (working toward accreditation), but the bulk of it took the last year.”
According to a recent press release from Coastal Kids Preschool, “NAEYC accreditation is a rigorous and transformative quality-improvement system that uses a set of 10 research-based standards to collaborate with early education programs to recognize and drive quality improvement in high-quality early learning environments.”
In determining a preschool’s eligibility for accreditation, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C., looks at, among other things, a school’s curriculum and means to assess a child’s progress, as well as the appropriateness, safety, and sanitation of the physical environment of the school and the relationships the school has developed with families and the larger community.
A representative of the organization visits the school for an entire day to thoroughly examine and document the school’s suitability for accreditation. “They call the day before and say they’re coming,” Reeves said. “You get to pick one day to say ‘don’t come.’ We picked Jan. 3.” A National Association for the Education of Young Children representative visited the preschool Jan. 5.
Twelve days later, the preschool learned that it had received accreditation with flying colors. “We heard in 12 days,” said Reeves of the process that can take up to three months. “Our scores were so high, I think it was just a no-brainer.”
One-third of Coastal Kids Preschool’s student population consists of special-needs kids. It is the only preschool in Lincoln County to have attained National Association for the Education of Young Children accreditation, and is one of just 53 in Maine to have done so.
National Association for the Education of Young Children-accredited preschools typically have “smaller child-teacher ratios than mandated by the state” and “teachers who are degreed and/or attend regular trainings,” according to a handout available at Coastal Kids Preschool.
In addition to the assurances that such accreditation offers parents about the measured high quality of the school, “Maine taxpayers with children in a program with a level-four quality certificate are eligible for a double child-care tax credit on their state tax return,” says another handout.
“This is Priscilla’s baby,” said Reeves of the accreditation, giving credit to Congdon’s vision and hard work. Congdon co-founded Coastal Kids Preschool in 1995, working nights at L.L. Bean “for years, to keep the preschool open,” Reeves said. “I am so honored to work with Priscilla and the staff. They are the best of the best.”
Both Congdon and Reeves are looking forward to celebrating the school’s accomplishment with the community at a special dance at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle on May 20.
Coastal Kids Preschool is located at 12 Jackie’s Trail in Damariscotta and can be found online at coastalkidsme.org. Go to naeyc.org to learn more about the National Association for the Education of Young Children.