The Ark Preschool
The Ark is the only state-accredited preschool for children whose families are experiencing homelessness in Baltimore City. The school serves children ages 3 and 4 years old whose families are homeless and/or in the early stages of addiction recovery. The Ark is open from 8:30am until 2:45pm Monday through Friday, and is licensed to enroll 40 children at a time. The Ark serves over 70 children annually in a year-round educational setting with an MSDE-approved curriculum. Children participate in Ark programming for an average of 4 ½ months. Children are assessed upon arrival using Creative Curriculum assessment tools, which provides an accurate and meaningful evaluation of children learning while in The Ark Program. Work sampling assesses language skills, word acquisition, listening and comprehension, gross and fine motor skills, and social behavior, and is predictive of standardized test results.
While at The Ark, children receive:
- Early childhood education designed to promote their development
- Individualized attention to promote social skills development
- Nutritionally balanced meals and snacks
- A safe and calm place where they can play and socialize
Children are referred to The Ark from a number of Baltimore shelter programs including My Sister's Place, the Salvation Army Booth House, Karis Home, and Sarah's Hope at Mount Street, the Rose Street Shelter, and the South Baltimore Homeless Shelter at Christ Lutheran Church. Some families are referred by treatment programs. Others hear about us from parents who have used our services.
All children must have a recent physical to enroll at The Ark. Our partnership with Health Care for the Homeless provides free physicals for children who need them.
Children are monitored throughout enrollment to guide staff in working with students individually to reach age-appropriate development. Documented developmental gains are consistently evident for all children who are enrolled in The Ark long enough for a second assessment. In addtion to education and social skills development program Ark students receive:
- A nutritious breakfast, lunch, and snack each day provided by The Community Kitchen.
- Dental care, including on-site dental screenings and fluoride treatments through Baltimore City Health Department.
- Interaction and help from volunteers from the community, local colleges, and universities.
- Transportation to and from The Ark for children who are living in certain city shelters.
In addition to preparing children for transition into school, Ark staff works with client families to help move them out of their crisis situation. Experienced staff assists parents in obtaining access to services such as employment information, health and dental information, transition to permanent housing with in-kind donations where needed, and other services and transportation funds.