Mission Statement  

The Linda B. Chipkin Early Years Center recognizes the potential to learn and succeed in all children.  We work with families, as a team, to ensure that the individual needs of our youngsters are met.  We appreciate the unique qualities of each child, and strive to foster their growth through discovery of the world around them.

The philosophy of the Early Years Program is based on the belief that play is the best means of facilitating learning in young children.  Learning takes place in a language based program, where children interact with each other, and their environment, through developmentally appropriate activities.

The goals of the Linda B. Chipkin Early Years Center

  • To encourage children to actively participate in the learning process by making choices available

  • To provide a language enriched environment to expand children's communication skills

  • To expand children's concepts and ideas about the world

  • To provide a healthy and safe environment to promote optimal learning

  • To promote children's positive interaction between peers and adults

  • To respect and recognize the unique development of all children

  • To successfully transition children to their next level of education

  • To develop social skills that will enhance children's ability to make friends and be successful members of a group

  • To work cooperatively with families to encourage participation in the development of their child's program

  • To encourage children to actively participate in the learning process by making choices available

  • To provide a language enriched environment to expand children's communication skills

  • To expand children's concepts and ideas about the world

  • To provide a healthy and safe environment to promote optimal learning

  • To promote children's positive interaction between peers and adults

  • To respect and recognize the unique development of all children

  • To successfully transition children to their next level of education

  • To develop social skills that will enhance children's ability to make friends and be successful members of a group

  • To work cooperatively with families to encourage participation in the development of their child's program.

 

 

  About The School  

Linda B. Chipkin Early Years Center

The Early Years Preschool Program is offered to all Branford children between the ages of 3-5 who have been determined eligible through the P.P.T. process.  A mentor component is part of the program design with candidates chosen from our town-wide "ChildFind".

Our program is a trans-disciplinary model incorporating the collaborative efforts of the Special Education Teachers, Speech and Language Pathologist, Social Workers, School Psychologists, Occupational and Physical Therapists, School Nurse, Teacher of the Hearing Impaired, and supporting Para-Professionals.  The Early Years Center program provides a nurturing learning environment that is dedicated to enhancing and developing skills in children of varying abilities, through collaboration between family and staff members.

The program recognizes the uniqueness of each individual which is reflected in the Individualized Educational Plan prepared for every eligible student.  The children are given the opportunity to explore their environment through play and active involvement supported by teacher facilitation.  Throughout the day the building of language skills, in a natural environment, is encouraged.  Playtime also allows the children to further develop their gross and fine motor skills, and improve their socialization skills.  The children are also encouraged to expand their self-help abilities and self-concept through naturally occurring classroom activities.

 

 


The Early Years Journey

EARLY YEARS JOURNEY

written by Linda B. Chipkin in Spring, 2009

The Early Years Center has a rich and interesting sequence of events that have led to where we are today. From 4 original students in one classroom to being the major tenant in the Indian Neck School Building with 90 students this past year. The changes that have occurred were mostly driven by Federal and State legislation, and a tremendous amount of research and parent focus groups throughout our country. As I wrote and investigated these changes, I could not believe all that has happened in the past 23 years.

In 1975, The Federal Government passes a law, Education For All Handicapped Children Act PL 94-142 which was by far the most reaching and comprehensive education litigation ever passed. The law offered a free appropriate education for all children with disabilities ages 3-21. It added that the education should take place in the least restrictive environment, included nondiscriminatory evaluation and testing, granted due process procedures, and provided for individualized education programs and parent involvement. During this time Dina Gorlick and I did home visits to address needs of 3 year olds, but only assessed and did not include therapy or PPT process. Districts did not need to include 3-5 or 18-21 students if their state law did not provide FAPE to students of these ages.

In 1986, PL 99-372 Education of the Handicapped Act Amendments  of 1986 amended PL 94-142 mandating extensions of rights and protections to children ages 3-5 and introduced Part H which was a discretionary program that encouraged states to provide comprehensive early intervention for children and their families from birth through age 2. In response to these new mandates reinforced by the State of Connecticut, our preschool program began that year as the Early Intervention Center (EIC) in a small part of the Indian Neck School as the building still had classes from K-2. The original team consisted of Ellen Greenberg, teacher, Andrea Bloom, SLP and Shayna Pitt, school psychologist with support from the rest of out Related Service Teams. Our initial training took place in Cheshire at the August School which was the original model we used. Our rooms were rebuilt by our custodial staff to mirror the Cheshire architecture.

In 1990 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was passed amending PL 94-142. This law also allowed for two new eligible categories of disabilities Autism and Traumatic Brain Injury which further changed the picture of who we were. The IDEA also designated Assistive Technology as a Related Service and strengthened the law's commitment to least restrictive environment so children could be educated in their home schools with non-disabled peers to serve as role models. This legislation also emphasized services for infants and toddlers which led to the state wide Birth to Three Program. With this new initiative our focus changed to include a partnership with our Birth to Three providers as we now had to work collaboratively with these teams, who were providing services to 0-3 students who were residents of our town, requiring the development of comprehensive Transition Plans to ease the change in placement from a home model to an educational model.

In 1991, the three K-4 buildings opened and the students from Indian Neck were distributed to their district schools and Social Services groups including food and clothing banks took over half of the building. Our school had continued to grow and enrollment necessitated a second classroom with Patti Bloom as the new teacher. Towards the end of the nineties, we advocated for the use of the remainder of the building to add much needed classrooms and related service rooms to include OT, PT, Speech and Language, and Teachers of the Hearing Impaired as we were beginning to get more children whose needs demanded more intensive intervention in our program and to explore the possibilities of Family Resource Center led by Lynne Malone (FRC) and School Age Child Care (SACC) directed by Marianna Hession to join in the use of the building so we could eventually be an Early Years Childhood Center not only addressing the needs of children with disabilities, but before and after school age child care, drop in center with a parent advocate for preschoolers and their caregivers to learn more about how to be their child's best teacher and eventually sliding fee scaled preschool language centers classrooms and School Readiness classrooms to afford full day quality preschool education and wrap around daycare services for students whose moms had to work to fulfill their economic obligations. The Town of Branford finally agreed that Indian Neck School should be a school for young children which led to the positive solution of a home in the center of town for all Social Services including the Community Kitchen, Food Bank, and assistance for food stamps in one building as FRC and SACC  became part of our school community. At this time we changed our name to The Early Years Center to indicate we were now education children without disabilities with our children who were challenged. It was a strong commitment to including children as mentors in our programs.

For a period during this time we became involved with the Preschool Shoreline Collaborative incorporating East Haven, North Branford, Madison, Guilford, Clinton and Branford in providing services to our more needy population as we all shared in the expenses. Eventually, all districts began a classroom to comply with the need for more intensive, full day, specialization of instruction for children on the Spectrum which now became our third classroom with Leslie Peters as the teacher and a speech and language pathologist.

A fourth class was added in the past give years to provide a comprehensive program for children who were seriously Health Impaired with severe communication delays, difficulty ambulating, cortical blindness, feeling and health issues requiring more direct nursing services. This class required that we extend out technology services to include assistive devices for accessing education, and communicating with their peers using unique Alternative and Augmentative vocal output devices.

The last five years as well put new responsibilities on EYC as we began preschool literacy and numeracy initiatives to prepare our students for transition to kindergarten so they could be more successful in accessing kindergarten benchmarks. The transition plans became a huge focus to reduce the anxiety of parents and students as they left the nurturing preschool program to become members of their home, school, and kindergarten with their peers and better prepare the kindergarten teachers with information and strategies for addressing each individual's needs. Transition plans also afforded ideas for behavioral management, and included pictures of students and teachers for easing the changes. Our curriculum also addressed Science for increasing divergent thinking and expressive language to include questioning from the children. We hired a science teacher once a month to present lessons which were aligned with the State of Connecticut Benchmarks for Preschool Science. The children had received PE, Music, and Art through the Board of Education programs which have helped to improve movement and balance as well as becoming more familiar with new styles of instruction.

Throughout the years EYC has provided professional development for our community nursery and daycare facilities to share our knowledge. It has always been our belief that when you give people knowledge they will perform successfully.

I could go on forever as to what Early Years Center has become from their humble beginnings, but the single most important principle that has driven our program has been the belief that early intervention makes a difference in the lives of children from in-utero  to classrooms and all children can learn with appropriate modifications and support services. It has been a safe haven for families and their children to take risks as they learned. The team has always believed that our program offered HOPE and their expertise and commitment were behind each of the students' successes.