As part of its 2023-28 Strategic Plan, the Wellesley Public Schools is committed to developing and executing a long-term vision for preschool offerings in the Town of Wellesley. In partnership with the School Committee, the WPS administration began this work in December 2023 with the creation of the Future of Preschool Task Force. This task force will include a variety of stakeholders including WPS staff, parents, community members with expertise in early education, and a representative from the School Committee.
Since the 1970s, Preschool At Wellesley Schools (PAWS) has served the children of the town. It has been designated a developmentally appropriate, high-quality program by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) through its participation in a national, voluntary, accreditation system designed to help early childhood programs meet high professional standards
PAWS was housed for a time in both the Wellesley Middle School and Wellesley High School. In 2006, the program moved into a dedicated 8,910 square foot, six-classroom prefabricated building located in the rear of the Fiske School campus [pictured above]. At the time of its opening, the anticipated life span of this prefabricated building was 25 years.
The PAWS program has outgrown its location. In order to meet its legal mandates, the preschool frequently runs as many as nine classroom sections, which means that three of those sections must be housed in available space throughout the district. During the 2023-24 school year, three satellite PAWS classes are located in the Fiske School. In the past, Hunnewell, Upham, and Bates have also hosted one or more PAWS classrooms. The School Committee and the School Department have determined that the desired model for PAWS is to have the program housed in one facility. In order to most efficiently and effectively serve our preschool students, all classrooms as well as the program’s specialized staff members should be located together in one building.
In 2018, the district conducted a Feasibility Study. During this study, it was determined that neither building a larger PAWS on the Fiske School property nor creating an addition to the Fiske School were possible solutions for a long-term facility for PAWS. The recommended option was to build a new building on a site that has yet to be determined.
Consideration of preschool location, building size and design, and funding for building and programming are questions for the School Committee, Town Meeting, and the Town at large. Before such questions can be resolved, the Wellesley Public Schools must work to collaboratively create a long-term vision for its preschool program that meets the needs of students and families and can be supported by Wellesley residents. The Task Force will develop options for the School Committee’s consideration, including potential timeline and implementation plan as well as an understanding of relative costs for each option. The Task Force is slated to share an interim report to the School Committee in late Spring 2024, and a final report to the Committee at the end of 2024.
Task Force Membership
Rebecca Zieminski, WPS Director of Early Childhood, Lead Facilitator
Dr. Jorge Allen, WPS Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Kathleen Bernklow, WPS Director of Student Services
Kristen Padulsky Chang, PAWS Parent
Amanda Dunham, PAWS Special Educator
Sharon Gray, WPS Coordinator for Community Engagement
Christina Horner, School Committee Member
Darlene Howland, Early Childhood Program Director at Wellesley Community Children’s Center
Katie Lefeber, PAWS Parent
Dr. David Lussier, WPS Superintendent of Schools
Corrie Martin, PAWS Team Chair
Rachel McGregor, Fiske School Principal
Dr. Wendy Robeson, Senior Research Scientist, Wellesley Centers for Women
Dr. Hannah Tolla, Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Accountability