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Early Beginnings


Carole Kerkin
Assistant Director of Open Choice
(860) 509-3695

About Early Beginnings

The Hartford Region Open Choice Early Beginnings program (OCEB) enrolls Hartford students in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten classrooms in suburban schools, as well as suburban students in Hartford Public Schools. As of October 2019, there were 259 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students enrolled in 22 towns. The goal of the OCEB program is to provide a well-rounded, comprehensive, high quality and inclusive educational experience for our youngest learners. The Open Choice program is managed by the Capitol Region Education Council with support from the State Department of Education.

Benefits of Program Participation For Families

  • CT certified teachers.
  • Small group sizes in classrooms.
  • A focus on the development of the whole child, paying special attention to the child's cognitive, social, emotional and physical development.
  • Curriculum based on the Connecticut Early Learning and Development Standards.
  • Students work and play in a culturally diverse community in preparation for adulthood.
  • Students enrolled may attend the partnering suburban district through high school.
  • Free transportation is available to all Hartford resident students and suburban resident kindergarten students residing in the RSCO transportation zone.
  • Full day programming for both pre-k and kindergarten students.
  • No cost to parents.

Benefits Of Program Participation For Suburban School Districts

  • Certified teachers, Early Beginnings Instructional Coaches, are available to work with teachers, para-educators and other educational staff to develop, implement, monitor and assess early childhood classroom best practices, culturally relevant best practices and supports for closing the achievement gap between urban and suburban students.
  • An Elementary Resource Specialist is available to act as a liaison between the school and Open Choice families.
  • A Board Certified Behavior Specialist is available to assist with behaviorally challenged students.
  • A SDE 092 Administrator is available to support districts with students receiving special education or 504 services and to act as a liaison between Hartford Public Schools and suburban school districts.
  • Access to high quality, in-district professional development, technical assistance and on- the-job coaching.
  • Integrated classrooms encourage critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. Diverse classrooms, in which students learn cooperatively alongside those whose perspectives and backgrounds are different from their own, are beneficial to all students—including middle-class white students—because these environments promote creativity, motivation, deeper learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Qualifications for Suburban School District Participation

  • Located in the greater Hartford area.
  • Maximum of 20 students per classroom with Open Choice Early Beginnings (OCEB) students evenly distributed amongst the classrooms.
  • 1:10 ratio of adults to children in each classroom.
  • Employ CSDE certified preschool teachers.
  • Pre-Kindergarten program must be under the supervision of the public school system.
  • OCEB students must remain in one location, with suburban district peers, for the entire full day (6 hour) program.
  • Curricula must be based on the Connecticut Early Learning and Development Standards.
  • Special education and related services must be available to students at the Pre-K and Kindergarten level.
  • Environments which are developmentally appropriate and conducive to learning and playing.
  • Programming must be offered five days per week, 180 days.
  • Must enroll a minimum of 10 Hartford resident preschool students in the same school OR must enroll a minimum of five preschool students and five kindergarten students in the same school.
  • Districts must have an established preschool program for at least one year with guidance from OEC and CREC's OCEB staff.
  • Districts will be exempt from the OCEB guidelines if they meet the Smart Start requirements (except the enrollment minimum).
  • Districts must notify CSDE and CREC no later than October of the current year for participation in the program for the following school year.

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