Jubilee Preschool educators gather next to the outdoor “classroom,” a covered pavilion at the new school. From left are Liz Kalms, Ashley Collins, Amy Dungan, Casey Sims, Mary Taylor. ANTONIO SMITH

A new preschool, soon to open in Hardeeville, is gearing up to change the way little people are taught. The founding educators say they have reinvented the whole concept of preschool, which they believe has stayed the same for the past 100 years.

The Jubilee Cooperative Preschool is set to open its doors Sept. 6 to children ages 3 to 5. The new school will combine different teaching methods with a custom curriculum, parent involvement, and a staff of master teachers to prepare toddlers for kindergarten. 

“We’re here to serve an area that has plenty of opportunity in Jasper County and the furthermost western Beaufort County,” director Amy Dungan said. “And we’re hoping to provide a solid foundation for little people to get ready for school.”

Dungan expects students to come from as far away as Hilton Head Island, where she has taught for many years.

Designed by longtime educators who saw a need among disadvantaged children in the area, Jubilee offers a unique approach to preschool. Dungan said Jubilee will be different in a variety of ways.

First, the preschool requires that a family member of each student volunteers one three-hour shift in the classroom every two weeks. Dungan said this gives parents a chance to see how their children are developing and what they are learning at school. It also gives parents an opportunity to learn from highly qualified teachers.

“Hopefully the parents will have lots of take-homes that they can use as well,” Dungan said.

Secondly, each classroom is limited to 10 children. In each room, there will be one teacher and one parent, as well as skilled aides, educational specialists and the director, who will come in and out as needed.

Thirdly, the school day will be different from other schools. Instead of staying in one classroom all day with an outdoor break here and there, students at Jubilee will rotate between two classrooms a day, with lunchtime, naptime, and plenty of outdoor playtime interspersed in between.

The children will stay with the same teacher and group of classmates but will experience various forms of stimulation in the different rooms.

The school will have five different content-specific classrooms, and each day the children will spend time in two of those rooms. Students will work on early literacy skills in the Words Room; learn about plants and animals in the Nature Room; dance, play music, and practice yoga and martial arts in the Romp Room; create and construct in the Maker Room; and have fun with water tables and play equipment in the Outdoor Room.

Each week, every student will have visited each room twice.

“We’re not crazy and going rogue, and reinventing the wheel,” Dungan said. “We’re just taking the best of everything that we know that’s been proven and putting it together in our own way.”

Jubilee’s philosophy uses some components of the Montessori method and the Reggio Emilia approach to education. The school focuses on hands-on learning and learning through play, while instilling a love of learning.

In an effort to really partner with the families and connect them with valuable resources in the community, Jubilee will have a home visit program. A home visit coordinator who is experienced in social work and child development will visit families in their homes at least twice a year.

Dungan hopes this will build trusting relationships between the school and the families, so the school can help if a family is in need.

“It’s a very affordable program for those in need,” Dungan said. “There just aren’t many of them, especially in Jasper County, so hopefully that will fulfill a need.” 

Tuition at Jubilee is determined on a sliding scale based on income level.

For now, the preschool will be hosted at Red Dam Baptist Church in Hardeeville, but the school will open a permanent structure within the next couple of years.

In addition, Jubilee’s sister institution, the Jubilee Charter School, is set to open in 2023 and will serve students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

For more information about the Jubilee Co-operative Preschool or to register a child for the fall, visit jbpreschool.org.

Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.