St. James Academy is making some big (or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say, little!) changes come next school year. The school has announced that they will be adding a PreK class to their offerings, creating a PreK-Grade eight experience for students.

Lori Dembo, Lower School Head, took some time to answer questions about the new program, including how the day will be structured for students. If you’re interested in learning more, be sure to join them for their PreK Open House on January 19th.

Lori Dembo, Lower School Head, St. James Academy - (cool) progeny

Chatting with Lori Dembo, Lower School Head at St. James Academy

Adding a new preschool class is a big move for a school. What motivated leadership at St. James to add a PreK class?

We feel that the St. James Academy (SJA) experience is a very special and enriched one, and we want to offer it to a younger population of students. Additionally, many current parents and visitors to our campus have expressed a desire for the program to begin at an earlier age. They feel their children are ready for all the enrichment we offer as well as the bigger campus!

How does this new PreK experience at St. James Academy differ from the experience a student might get at a traditional preschool?

PreK at SJA will offer the added value of a Kindergarten – Grade 8 experience for a four year old in a much larger setting. They will enjoy the benefit of older students as ‘Buddies’ to learn and grow together. Students learning from their older peers will create friendships and experiences that can last for years.

Our facilities offer 89 plus acres where students can run, play, and explore nature, a more than 100,000 sq. foot school building, as well as a new outdoor classroom/pavilion. These add greatly to our students’ learning opportunities. Our program consists of stimulating, challenging, and creative educational experiences, as well as numerous extracurricular offerings during the school day.

How would you describe St. James Academy’s early childhood education philosophy?

SJA offers a student centered program that clearly understands the ages and stages of development. Our goal is to educate students in an active, warm, and safe environment utilizing a multisensory approach. We educate the whole child and firmly believe that education is a ‘journey not a race.’ Meeting children where they are and watching them grow in this welcoming and supportive environment is key to the SJA experience. We fully embrace the Episcopalian ethos of ‘Celebrating all God’s gifts.’

Take us through the structure of the day in the new PreK class.

What we know about four year olds is that they are active and ready to move. The PreK will begin each day with movement and play while developing those important skills of sharing and caring about their peers. They will enjoy circle time, projects, literature, outdoor play/nature explorations, snack and lunch, story time and rest, and they will end each day with more movement. Each week will be enhanced by a host of extracurricular offerings such as world language exploration, library, art, physical education, music, and chapel. Yearlong enriched experiences will include assemblies, field trips, guest speakers, and participation in school wide community service projects.

In what ways will this PreK class prepare students for Kindergarten?

Attending SJA’s PreK will allow for the full experience of our program and community, familiarity with the extensive campus, as well as the academic expectations for students to ensure a solid start. Students will learn how to express themselves appropriately, enhance their motor skills for work and play, use their imaginations and creativity, all while growing in their pre reading, writing and math skills. All age appropriate milestones will be addressed with the four year olds to prepare them for Kindergarten.

Why should parents consider a PreK-Grade 8 experience for their child?

We offer an experience that is challenging, creative, and developmentally appropriate. Our students are the school stars and they do not feel overshadowed by a high school program. They feel supported and comfortable to make mistakes, try new things, think outside of the box, and know that this is safe setting in which to do so. We work to build resiliency and character by encouraging our students to step towards a challenge and celebrate their imagination, perseverance and effort. We might not know what future careers our students will be entering, but we do know what they will need to be successful ‘contributing members of our World.’ (SJA Mission)

Want to learn more about the new PreK program at St. James? Join them on Friday, January 19th to learn more about their new PreK program. MORE INFO


Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored by St. James Academy. Read more about the school in our Independent Schools Directory. Photos by Laura Black.