Planet Kids of Wellington and The Wellington Preparatory School
By Krista Martinelli
If you’re looking for a preschool and elementary school with experienced teachers, a low ratio of students to teachers and a proven record of excellence in education, check out Planet Kids at Wellington and, on the same campus, The Wellington Preparatory School.
The educational advantage these students are getting is shown in the confidence they display as you walk through the beautiful facilities, as well as their test scores. Planet Kids at Wellington celebrates its thirteenth year this September, while the sister elementary school Wellington Prep has been open for three years.
Principal of both schools Sandy Montoya says, “We aim for a family atmosphere here. Our priority is to be very nurturing and make sure the students are happy.” She feels that the students have a more stimulating environment at Planet Kids than at your typical preschool, thanks to the iPad lab, the science room, the library and other educational outlets. Jeffrey Altschuler, founder and president, adds, “Even in our preschool, the kids are changing classes for each program.” Located on five acres on Lake Worth Road (near Lyons Road), there’s a college campus feeling with both Planet Kids and Wellington Prep. There’s an art room, a science room, a theater room, a language arts room – the kids are always on the move.
Both schools have received national accreditation. Planet Kids at Wellington has also been rewarded the Florida Gold Seal of Quality designation. “The teachers have been here for years,” says Montoya, “Everyone stays.” Also, she stresses that they make it a priority to get to know each child. Currently there are approximately 300 students at Planet Kids and approximately 50 students at Wellington Prep, which currently goes up to 2nd grade. They are expanding with the groundbreaking of a new building planned for December of this year, which will eventually expand Wellington Preparatory School to 8th grade.
The great programs offered at Planet Kids and Wellington Prep begin with children as young as six weeks old. Their “Beyond Cribs and Rattles” program ranges from 6 weeks to 24 months of age, where they focus on nurturing, art, music and teacher interaction. From 24 months to 4 years of age, students are enrolled in an ABeka phonics program and “Beyond Centers and Circle Time”, a thematic-based curriculum, which incorporates play.
Parents can enroll their children in Planet Kids’ VPK program, just like any other VPK program in Florida, free of charge (for the half day). The School offers three versions of its fulltime VPK program: traditional, accelerated and dual language. The accelerated learning class uses “Everyday Math,” as developed by the University of Chicago and the highly-acclaimed Lucy Calkins writing and reading methods, as developed by Columbia University. The dual language VPK program (Spanish / English) uses “Sonrisas” where students learn a lesson in the morning and then after 12:00 learn the same lesson, taught completely in Spanish. The Wellington Prep Elementary School curriculum continues by using the University of Chicago’s Everyday Math program and the same reading and writing program, developed by Columbia University. All elementary students are enrolled in a violin program, the Spanish dual language program and a Meet the Master’s art program.
The Best in Technology
One of the nice things about the iPad lab, says Jeff Altschuler, is that for the younger children, “No fine motor skills are needed.” Everyone can use an iPad. As the children get older, they have computers in every classroom. They also have Smartboards. These are like interactive white boards, allowing students, for example, to underline all of the nouns in a poem. Having the best of technology at their fingertips is fun for the students and prepares them for using technology in their college years and beyond.
Safety and Security
“We are obsessive about safety here,” says Principal Sandy Montoya. They have locks on all doors and there’s a Raptor security check system in place. This system is a national company that provides immediate confirmation of a person’s background.
Keeping the Arts Alive – Meet the Masters
In kindergarten, the students will be introduced to ten of the Masters of the art world. It’s a “looping curriculum,” explains Altschuler. The students will copy the technique of artists like Van Gogh, Monet, Cassatt and their work will be displayed proudly in the school. Their education about these masters of art will continue each year. “And by the time they graduate from 5th grade, they have a great, classical appreciation of art,” adds Altschuler.
As Altschuler and Montoya point out, there’s a close tie between math and music. The more it is researched, the more value is found in the importance of learning an instrument. In particular, says Altschuler, “We have found that learning an unfretted instrument like the violin is the best way for training your ear for music.” See the related video, from Ted Talks, about how playing an instrument benefits your brain.
About Founder and President Jeffrey Altschuler
Jeff originally worked in Chicago advising large companies. He returned to Florida and found that he had an affinity toward education. He invested in The North Broward Preparatory Schools, located just south of Boca Raton, and it grew to its target capacity. Then he was one of the founders of the Meritas school system, a premium K thru 12th grade family of college preparatory schools with locations around the world. Proud of his work with Meritas but wanting to travel less often, he realized there was a need for a high-end school in the Wellington area. He acquired Planet Kids at Wellington and built Wellington Preparatory School next door.
About Principal Sandy Montoya
Sandy worked for several years in the charter school system in Belle Glade. It was an eye-opening and rewarding opportunity. She has been Principal of Planet Kids for almost eight years and has also served as principal of Wellington Preparatory School since its opening. With extensive experience in public schools and charter schools, she holds a bachelor’s degree from Florida International University in Educational Management.
Advantages of Planet Kids & Wellington Prep Students
“We have a solid curriculum and a great faculty,” says Montoya. “We hire very experienced teachers, and most of them have Master’s degrees.” The average class size is 12 students, achieving that desirable low student to teacher ratio. With the violin lessons, the dual language program, the Meet the Masters Art program, a great outdoor playground facility and karate class, there are many “extras” to being a student of one of these two schools. Parents really appreciate the individual planning that goes on for each student. Perhaps that is why they are currently at capacity and getting ready to break ground on a new building.
Another benefit to Wellington Preparatory School is being removed from the highly controversial public school climate of “constant testing” and “teaching to the test,” currently in the form of the FSA tests. Instead Wellington Prep students take the Stanford exam, which is a Pearson developed test that has been normed across the U.S. with 335,000 students. It provides a more meaningful national benchmark. However, the build up and drama that circles around test-taking is not as prevalent at Wellington Prep. “We like to keep it low-key,” says Altschuler.
Instead of depending on book publishers for a great deal of their curriculum, Planet Kids and Wellington Prep rely on University research for their academic programs. “They are not trying to sell anything and provide an unbiased program,” explains Altschuler, who hired an outside consultant who selected the University of Chicago’s math program and Columbia University’s language arts program.
About 80% of the Planet Kids students continue their education at Wellington Preparatory School. Both Altschuler and Montoya are very excited about being able to continue that education up to 8th grade in the near future.
During enrollment season, open houses are offered every couple of months at these two schools. Check their websites or call for more information. Get your child started on the path to success!
Planet Kids at Wellington
Lake Worth, FL 33463
Wellington Preparatory School
Lake Worth, FL 33463