How Maryland preschools are meeting parents’ needs

preschool cover
preschool cover

preschool coverBy Laura Barnhardt Cech

Circle time isn’t always convenient.

At 9 a.m., when preschools across Maryland are beginning a chorus of “Good morning to you,” many working parents have already slogged through a dozen e-mails and at least one meeting. By the time juice (or non-fat, organic milk) is poured, they’re onto reports and presentations and nowhere near done with their workday. But back in preschool, it’s almost time for pickup.

The traditional preschool three-hour mornings two or three times a week seems almost as quaint as the bygone label “nursery school.”

So with more parents working longer hours, what are Maryland preschools doing to adapt to today’s world? Are they losing students to daycare centers, which once focused more on play and less on curriculum? Is there a fusion of the two?

In recent years, many Maryland preschools have been expanding — first, lunch options, then after-care, five-day options, and full-day options. And daycare centers (many of which prefer to be called “child care centers”) now do much of what preschools once did and more, from circle time and free play to foreign language and early literacy.

“I think they’ve both evolved,” says Barbara A. Willer, deputy executive director for Program Recognition and Support at the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

“We’re seeing part-day programs expand, increasingly offering options such as lunch bunch and extended day, designed to meet families’ needs,” Willer says.

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