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Comfortable, Hazard-free Clothing and Accessories
Please dress your child in sturdy, comfortable clothing.  Smocks are available in each room.  However, because some children may refuse to participate in activities rather than wear a smock, wearing a smock is always a child’s choice. If your child does wear special clothing to school, be aware that it may get dirty or stained sometime during the day. 

If your child is in the infant/toddler wing, please do not put small hairclips in your child’s hair or allow them to wear small accessories, as they present a choke hazard. If you have a question about the size, the teachers have “choke tubes” and you can test the item – if it fits entirely in the tube, it is too small for the classroom.

Please be sure your child is free from strings, laces or jewelry that could become entangled or wedged in playground equipment and present a strangulation hazardThe teachers are required by law to remove any strangulation hazards.

Extra Clothing
Each child needs a complete set of extra clothing, which is stored in a plastic box in the classroom to use in the case of spills or accidents.  Infant and toddler children need two to three changes of clothing, including a second pair of shoes.  Preschool children need a complete set of extra clothes (pants, shirts, sweater or sweatshirt, two pairs of socks and two pairs of underwear).  If your child has recently learned to use the toilet (or in the midst of learning) please send extra sets of pants and underwear. 

We ask that you check your child’s box regularly and replace the clothing your child uses.  We have a limited amount of extra clothing, which is available if your child does not have the appropriate article in his or her extra clothes bin. If your child borrows clothes from school or another child’s extra clothing, please launder and return the items as soon as you are able to do so.  

Label all clothing
Please mark all items with your child’s name. Name tapes or a laundry or permanent-ink pen work well for labeling. 

Lost clothing
Lost and found items are stored on the shelf in the niche in the Common. Items are cleared out regularly. We display them in the Common entry for a few days and donate unclaimed items to a local charity.

Independent Dressing
For preschool and toddler children, we encourage as much independence in dressing as children are capable of.  For this reason, we recommend pants with elasticized waistbands.  They are more easily managed especially during toileting routines.  Suspenders, belts, and pants with snaps and buttons often complicate the dressing process. Shoes with Velcro fasteners are preferable to laces because Velcro promotes dressing independence.  Please only use pull-ups with Velcro closures, as the pull-ups without side closures require children to remove all their clothing to change. For infants, we recommend pants with snap legs to facilitate diaper changes. Please consult with individual teachers for recommendations of appropriate clothing for young children at school.

Outside Clothing
Children go outside every day.  Please send rainwear if it is raining or if the forecast calls for damp weather.  In cold weather children need boots, snow-pants, hats, and mittens every day.  If your child stays for the afternoon, please send two sets of snow wear, as frequently the outerwear gets wet in the morning and is not dry before children go out again later in the day.  It is helpful to your child if you send garments that are easy to manipulate.  For example, zippers are easier than buttons, mittens are easier (and warmer) than gloves.  Our goal is to help children do as much dressing as they are capable of on their own.  (See Outdoor Policy for more information.)


Footwear Policy


All children, except for infants, wear footwear at all times at Fort Hill, including nap time. Children keep at least two pairs of practical, securely-fitting footwear available at all times - one pair of fitted indoor shoes with a non-skid sole and one pair of fitted outdoor shoes with non-skid soles appropriate for the weather. This policy is intended to provide children with footwear that allows them to play actively in all areas of the school and to safely evacuate the building and walk for a distance in an emergency situation. 

Appropriate footwear is practical; fits securely; has a non-skid sole; is appropriate for the weather, protective, and easy for a child to fasten; and, allows for safe, active movement inside and outside (e.g, running, climbing, dancing, cycling, etc.). Both indoor and outdoor shoes should have a sole appropriate for walking outside and should allow the child to walk without tripping and with the shoe remaining on her foot. Below are examples of appropriate footwear.
 Rainboots  velcro sneakersenclosed sandals

Indoor non-skid, securely-fitted footwear
Sneakers or fitted shoes with a non-skid surface and a closure that is easily manipulated by the child allow the most protection and support for active play indoors. Please do not send slippers, or flip flops without a back strap, as indoor shoes because they do not provide the support or resistance to play actively or to evacuate safely.

        velcro sneakers strap flip flopscroc w. strapno  slippersno flip flops

Outside non-skid, fitted footwear appropriate for the weather
Sneakers or fitted shoes with a non-skid surface and a closure that is easily manipulated by the child is best for dry outdoor weather. Rain boots and snow boots are necessary for wet weather. Please do not send flip flops or crocs as outdoor footwear, even if they have a strap, as they do not provide the necessary protection or support for active play outside. 

rainboots  enclosed sandals

no crocs 

Toys from Home
Natural materials, photographs, and non-commercial books are welcome; we ask families to refrain from bringing books related to commercial products. We ask that children do not bring toys from home.  Toys from home distract children from the planned environment, risk being lost or broken, and can create social issues in the classroom.  If you have any questions, please talk with your child’s teacher.

Please see the section Separation & Transitional Objects from Home for more information.

Transportation Plan
Massachusetts state law requires that we keep on file a transportation plan for every child enrolled in the program.

Entering and Exiting the Campus: Traffic Pattern
Please drive very slowly through the Fort Hill campus. The speed limit on the Fort Hill campus is 5 mph.

Please follow the safe traffic pattern detailed below whenever you enter or exit the Fort Hill campus. Please share this pattern with everyone who transports your child to and from school. The pattern maintains one-way entrance and exit driveways and reserves Lyman Road for vehicles exiting Fort Hill.

Please enter the campus from Munroe Street, not from Lyman Road. Enter Munroe street via South street and turn left onto East Street, cross Lyman Road and arrive at the campus via the one-way entry driveway.

Please exit the campus via the one-way exit driveway, turning right onto Lyman Road.


Biking and Walking to Fort Hill
If you walk to Fort Hill, please leave your stroller on the porch of the estate house. There is a bike rack at the front of the school for those who bike to school.

Alcohol and Smoking 
Please note that state law forbids smoking and alcohol on the premises, inside or outside, during the hours the program is open.

Please park only in the designated parking lot and do not park along the driveway or near the entrance to the school. Parking is available in the large parking lot for all Fort Hill families and teachers.   All staff members park in the spaces farthest from the building, to allow families with children the closer parking spaces. 

Reserved Parking
Several parking areas are designated for specific use. Please do not park in this spaces unless you meet the criteria for using these spaces.

The Handicapped spaces nearest the building are reserved for those with the appropriate registration. 

Several spaces located near the building are reserved for families carrying infants.

The area along the driveway near the front entrance is reserved for delivery trucks and families with a sick sibling or picking up a child who has become ill at school. Please do not park in this space at any time.

Approaching the building
For safety reasons, we ask that children walk next to their parents on the inside of the sidewalk that runs along the driveway.  Please do not let children run ahead of adults on the sidewalk or in the parking lot.  

Playground Gates
If you enter or exit the school through the playground, please remind your child that only adults open and close the gates.  Children wait for adults at the gate and the adult opens and recloses the gate. Please double check to be sure the gate is secure.

Entering the Building
Please enter the building only through the front door.  This practice helps to keep the classrooms clean as well as secure.

Front Door Security System
The doors at Fort Hill are locked throughout the day. Each enrolled family receives two proximity cards, which will open the front door between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on school days. Please report lost cards to the office coordinator as soon as possible.

Walking to the Classroom
State law mandates that all children are seen and heard by an adult at all times. Please walk with your child to the classroom and refrain from letting children enter the building, walk down the hall, or go to the classrooms ahead of you. Please help maintain a calm environment for all children to transition from home to school. Please do the same on exiting the building. 

Car Seats
If you bring a car seat for someone else to drive your child home, please leave it in the front hall or office.

We strive to maintain a safe, engaging, and aesthetically appealing environment to support an active learning community of children, families, teachers and students.


The spaces used by the children and teachers include:

Classrooms Interior Spaces
North Room Music Studio
East Room Visual Arts Studio
South Room Mini Visual Arts Studio
West Room Large Common/Performing Arts Studio
Group S Library
Group B Psychology Department Research Room
Group A Small Common
  Teachers' Workroom
  3 Storage Rooms
  Laundry Room


We consider the environment to be the third teacher, and that there is no marginal space. Materials are carefully selected with the idea that “less is more” and are presented in the classroom to reflect the concept that "order is beauty." The materials and classrooms are aesthetically pleasing and organized—the environment welcomes and allows children to use materials in an open-ended way and encourages creativity, problem-solving, experimentation, and moving materials to different spaces in the room. We create an environment that “belongs” to the children, where they feel ownership and competence in initiating and developing their learning. We avoid commercial products and emphasize natural, open-ended materials. 

We encourage interaction within the Fort Hill community and children frequently visit siblings or other classrooms and spaces in the building. Teachers accompany younger children when they move to different spaces. When older children move from one classroom to another, the teachers monitor them through a “magnet system.” Each child has a magnet with her picture on it. When she moves to another space, she asks a teacher in her current room, takes her magnet and asks the receiving teacher. The two teachers communicate that the responsibility for the child has shifted, and the child places her magnet on the magnet board in the new room. In case of emergency evacuation, the teacher takes the magnet board with her. When children return to their classroom, they communicate again with both teachers and the teachers communicate with each other. 

Liquids, foods and appliances that are, or become, hot enough to burn children, are kept out of the reach of children. Adults may not bring coffee or other hot drinks into the classrooms. When in the classroom, adults model and adhere to the expectations for children, including eating and drinking the food provided by the program and sitting at the table to eat. 

The doors to the playground are locked unless children are outside. 

The Commons

The Common is the central space in the school.  We also have a “Little Common” at the end of the infant/toddler wing.  The spaces are named after the idea of a New England town common and the space serves the school in much the same way as a town common.  We gather for all-school functions in the common and children will go to the common to interact with children from other groups.  The space is valuable for large group gatherings, as an alternative to the classroom space, and as a space where small groups of children are able to move freely.  

In order to keep the Commons available for classroom use and to facilitate smooth transitions for all families, we ask families to refrain from bringing their children to the Commons to play at arrival or pick-up.

The Studios

The school includes a visual arts and music studio. Each of these spaces is maintained by a teacher dedicated to the space. The Visual Arts studio is limited to preschool-age children because some of the items in the space are "chokeables."


The program consists of two levels: the infant/toddler level and the preschool level. The teachers at each level meet the appropriate Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care teacher certification requirements for either infant/toddler or preschool teacher or lead teacher. Most teachers hold master's and bachelor's degrees. Supervising teachers hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree.

To the greatest extent possible, a child remains with at least one consistent teacher for her years in the infant/toddler program. When she moves to preschool, she begins with a new teaching team, certifiied at the preschool level. To the greatest extent possible, a child remains with one of the teachers from her first year in preschool in her second year of preschool. Please see General Policies: Transition & Placement Policy for more information. 

The classrooms are licensed as follows:

Classroom Licensed Capacity Licensed Group
North Room 7 infants or 8 infant/toddlers Infants or Infants and Toddlers
East Room 9 Toddlers or Toddlers/Preschoolers
South Room 10 Toddlers or Toddlers/Preschoolers
West Room 9 Toddlers or Infants/Toddlers
Group S 12 preschoolers or 9 toddler/preschoolers Preschoolers or Toddler/Preschoolers
Group B 20 Preschoolers
Group A 20 Preschoolers

The program is staffed by supervising teachers, teachers, rotating teachers, studio teachers, an office coordinator, an assistant director and a director. Students from Smith College work as assistant teachers in the classrooms. All children must be seen and heard at all times. Teachers remain in sight of other staff at all times. Safety is a top priority and all teachers and adults are responsible for fixing or reporting any situation that may endanger the children or adults. Please report any problems to the office coordinator and she will contact the appropriate department. Please click here to see an organizational chart of the reporting structure.

All regular staff are hired following Smith College hiring processes, complete a Background Record Check, are oriented to the program, trained in CPR, pediatric first aid, Epi-Pen and medication administration, blood borne pathogens, USDA food nutrition guidelines, and recognizing and reporting child abuse. Teachers complete a minimum of 20 hours of professional development each calendar year.

Typically, some children from all classrooms depart before 4:45, reducing the class size, and classrooms combine from 3–5 p.m. This happens most frequently in:

  • the preschool classrooms, where children from Groups B, S, and A join to create one classroom with one teacher from each of the groups; and,
  • in the toddler South and East rooms, where the children join together with one teacher from each of the rooms and Smith College students join as assistant teachers.

Staffing ratios meet, and typically exceed, Massachusetts State Regulations at all time, which require:

Fort Hill Typical Staffing Pattern Children:Teachers

Age Group EEC Licensed Class Size EEC Required Staffing Children:Teachers Fort Hill Typical Staffing Pattern Children:Teachers
Infants 7 7:2 7:3
Toddlers 9 9:2 9:3
Infants/Toddlers 9 9:2 9:3
9 9:2 10:3
Preschoolers 20 20:2 12–15 : 2 16–18 : 3

Arrival Time and Reporting Attendance
Fort Hill opens at 8 a.m. Before 8 a.m., teachers are preparing the classrooms and planning for the day.  If you arrive early, please enjoy exploring the gardens and playground. 

If your child will be arriving after 9:15, or will not be in school, please call the office before 9 a.m. (413-585-3290). If a child does not arrive at school by 9:15, as mandated by law, we will call all the contact numbers, including emergency contact numbers, to ensure that the child is safe. 

We encourage families to arrive before 11 a.m. so the children have an opportunity to engage with their peers before afternoon routines begin. We understand that there will be days when your child has a doctor’s or other appointment that means arriving late or leaving early from school.  We strongly urge that you make your appointments for early in the morning or late in the day.  When children arrive at transitions, lunch or nap time, or are taken out and returned in the middle of the day, they often have difficulty with the rest of their day.  You may want to request appointments at the end of the day to make your child’s day easier.  If you choose to make an appointment early in the morning, please inform your child’s teacher the day before the appointment so that we can incorporate the information into our planning.

Front Door Security System

The doors at Fort Hill are locked throughout the day. Each enrolled family receives two proximity cards, which will open the front door between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on school days. Please report lost cards to the office coordinator as soon as possible.

Toys from Home
Natural materials, photographs, and non-commercial books are welcome; we ask families to refrain from bringing books and toys related to commercial products. We ask that children do not bring toys from home. Toys from home distract children from the planned environment, risk being lost or broken, and can create social issues in the classroom. If you have any questions, please talk with your child’s teacher.

Your child's teacher may talk with you about transitional objects to help with separation. Please see the section Separation & Transitional Objects from Home for more information.

Each classroom has a clipboard with a form to record the time your child arrives at school, the time you depart with your child, and information you would like to share with your child’s teacher. Please accurately complete this form every day when you arrive and depart, as we are required by licensing regulations to maintain these records for one year. Please use the time on the atomic clock that is adjacent to the sign-in/out board to record the time.

Please be sure to sign in and out every day. The log is used to verify attendance during times of emergency or evacuation.

Please be sure to leave a telephone number where you can be reached. It is very important that we are able to contact parents in case of emergency or illness. Please check messages frequently if you are away from your phone. If you are going to be away from the number you left at sign-in, please call the office, 585-3290, and give us an alternate number.  

Hand Washing, Sunscreen, and Insect Repellent
Please wash your hands and help your child wash his hands before entering the classroom. Dispensers are located near the front door, in each of the classrooms and in the bathrooms. During the appropriate seasons, please apply sunscreen and insect repellant to your child before she begins the day.


We work to balance a family-friendly climate with maintaining an appropriate environment for infants, toddlers and preschoolers for the entire day.  Siblings frequently accompany parents to drop-off or pick up a child at Fort Hill.  If older siblings arrive with a parent to drop-off or pick-up a child at Fort Hill, we ask that the parent carefully supervise the older child.  State regulations require that every child be seen and heard at all times.  Because many of the children stay at Fort Hill all day, it is disruptive to the classroom climate when families remain after the earlier departure times as the number of people and activity level greatly increases.  Please explain to older siblings that the expectations for their behavior are the same for everyone in the school, and are probably similar to the expectations at their schools. 

Much of our equipment is designed for young children and is not safe for older children. This includes the infant/toddler climber and the ladder in The Common. On the playground, the strength and speed of the older siblings can be intimidating to the younger children and the older children may model behaviors that are unsafe for younger children. For example, the momentum of the tire swing can be intimidating to younger children. If older siblings accompany a parent to pick-up at Fort Hill, we ask that parents carefully supervise the children and plan to leave the playground or school promptly so that the children who remain at Fort Hill are not disrupted. Thank you for your consideration of all the children at Fort Hill.

Sick Siblings
If you have a sick sibling in the car when you arrive, please call the office (585-3290) and we will meet you in the driveway to walk your well Fort Hill child to her classroom, or back to the car at the end of the day, so that your sick child can remain in the car with you.

Morning Arrival Suggestions

The family’s arrival and a parent’s subsequent leaving in the morning can be facilitated with the establishment of a daily good-bye routine. Planning to stay for a few minutes before you leave for work makes leave-taking a little easier for some children. Reading a book to your child, doing a short activity with him/her, or helping him/her to get involved in an activity are some suggestions for the morning routine. Having a usual good-bye place or planning for a wave at the fence or window afterwards may be helpful as well—it is important to always say goodbye. Teachers are always happy to help establish a routine. They have observed many parents and children and can help you individualize the farewell for your child if you would like. 

Even children who are happy throughout the day may have a hard time saying good-bye to a parent in the morning. It is typical for children to protest when a parent leaves and some may protest for many mornings. It is also typical for children who transition easily during the year to protest later in the year. Please see the section Separation & Transitional Objects from Home for more information.

On occasion your child may need help from a teacher. Your child may cry when you leave. You may even have to give your child to a teacher to hold as you depart. These are all appropriate reactions to leave-taking between young children and parents. If your departure leaves you feeling uncomfortable, you can call the office when you get to your workplace to see how your child is faring. Usually children stop crying and become  involved in an activity fairly soon after a parent leaves.


Whether starting school for the first time, moving to preschool from a toddler program, or returning to the same classroom, a child may experience separation anxiety. She may also experience separation anxiety later in the year, even after easily separating for a period of time. Sometimes the reasons may seem apparent, such as a parent traveling, a long vacation, or transitions such as toilet training, or the birth of a sibling. Other times the reasons are not clear to teachers and families. Please share your observations and concerns with the teacher and plan together how best to support your child and family.

Dr. Joshua Sparrow, co-author with T. Berry Brazelton of Touchpoints, emphasizes that parents must prepare themselves in order to prepare their child for separation. He suggest that parents reflect on any ambivalence they have about leaving their child, because if a parent feels any hesitation, discomfort or doubt, a child will pick up on those feelings: ‘Well, maybe this isn't really a good place or idea.’ 

Young children are still developing communication skills.  Their efforts at expressing their distress at separation can be confusing and painful to watch.  These struggles are healthy and natural, no matter how difficult they may feel at the time.  While you may not be able to eliminate separation anxiety, the following strategies can help the transition go more smoothly:

  • Recognize and relect your child’s feelings. For example, “You look a little sad this morning.”
  • Maintain a special morning ritual, such as eating together or feeding the cat.
  • Suggest your child bring in a soft object of comfort from home – a familiar blanket, hat, or stuffed animal.  Or your child may prefer to have a photograph of you. Please do not bring a toy or commercial product.
  • Let your child see that you and the teacher are building a relationship.  Greet your child’s teacher warmly.  Stay and talk for a minute, trying to include your child in the conversation (“Guess what Jesse and I fixed for breakfast this morning – pancake rollups!”)
  • Take time to say goodbye. It may be tempting to slip away when your child isn’t looking.  Clear goodbyes build trust. It is helpful to develop a goodbye ritual – for example, always waving goodbye from the same spot on the playground.  Letting your child talk you into extending the goodbye – “Just one more push on the swing!  Please! Please!" – will only make the separation harder in the long run.
  • Keep teachers informed of any big changes at home. Any change is a transition, and transitions can cause anxiety. 
  • Most importantly, please talk to the teachers if your child is having a separation problem (preferably while the child is out of earshot). They will be able to help by giving your child extra attention if they know that she is having difficulty adjusting and will work with you to develop a plan to ease the separation.  Please be reassured that separation anxiety is healthy and normal. Together we will support your child as she goes through this important stage of development. 

Transitional Objects from Home 

It is very common for a young child to have a special object, such as a blanket, pacifier or stuffed animal.  We welcome these special objects as they not only provide comfort and valuable self-soothing but also can help to build a child’s self esteem.

Very young children will keep these objects close by.  It is developmentally appropriate for them to do so, and they are not expected to share them with other children.  Teachers will work with children to help them learn respect for each others’ possessions.

As children grow older and learn to interact in the classroom independently, there will be less need for these comfort items.  For example, we ask preschoolers to keep them in their cubbies as much as is possible.  However, it remains helpful for children to have such special objects available at rest time or other times when they need to self-soothe.

Natural materials, photographs, and non-commercial books are welcome; we ask families to refrain from bringing books and toys related to commercial products. If you have any questions, please talk with your child’s teacher.

The Fort Hill grounds were designed by Denig Design Associates in collaboration with teachers and parents at Fort Hill. The naturalized playgrounds feature plantings and stones, swings, tricycle paths, sand areas, gazebos, and musical instruments. The grounds are maintained by Smith College.


We believe in the physical, emotional, and social advantages of fresh air and outdoor play and children go outside every day, with the exception of extreme conditions, even if only for ten or fifteen minutes. Children play on the playground and take walks or stroller rides. Teachers monitor children’s comfort closely, and children who complain of being cold are brought indoors. Because infants are confined to strollers and may be far from school when they are discovered to be cold, teachers use discretion taking infants out in cold temperatures.

Walks and Stroller Rides within Sight of the Building
Teachers walk children both on the Fort Hill grounds and on excursions to the campus or around the community. When walking within sight of the facility, a teacher may be alone with children as long as she is within the mandated EEC ratios. Whenever children are outside of the fenced in playground area, teachers must carry:

  • First Aid Kit
  • Emergency Contact Information
  • Cell Phone
  • Medications and Medical Forms, including Authorization for Emergency Care
  • Attendance sheet with current family contact information

Trips Away from Immediate Sight of the Building
If a teacher leaves the immediate visible area, she must notify parents in advance, be accompanied by another adult and must sign out on the log in the office providing details of the trip and contact information, as well as carry the items listed above.

Teachers confirm the availability and the appropriateness of all off-site facilities prior to the trip. The teachers traveling on the trip plan and implement appropriate supervision of the children in the public spaces. All children wear identification pinned to the back of their clothing, which includes the name, address and telephone number of the Center for Early Childhood Education whenever children are off-site.

Permission is obtained for any travel off-site (away from the Fort Hill playground or parking lot). Parents are notified in advance before leaving the site and teachers confirm that parents have received the notification.

The protocol for walking field trips is:

  • An adult always leads
  • Children wear badges identifying Fort Hill, 28 Lyman Road, Northampton, MA 413-585-3290
  • Adults are placed throughout the line
  • An adult walks at the end of the line
  • 1 adult for every 4 children (preschoolers)
  • An adult stands in crosswalk to stop traffic as children cross
  • Teachers map/walk the route before the trip with safety issues in mind
  • Always use the crosswalks for crossing when available
  • Use of police for crossing when deemed necessary
  • Prepare children before the trip—safety discussions, “rules for walking,” explanations to parent helpers of their responsibilities

Outdoor Clothing
When the the children and teachers are dressed in appropriate clothing, they enjoy unstructured outdoor playtime even on very cold days. Our motto is a Norwegian saying: “There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

On rainy days children need rain jackets as well as boots or an extra pair of shoes to change into when they come inside. In cold weather, all children need hats, mittens, boots, and snow pants to enjoy their time outdoors. Generally, layered clothes are helpful as the temperature changes throughout the day. On the advice of the school pediatrician, we ask every child to have a head covering in order to maintain a warm body temperature. Mittens, especially mittens made of material designed for outdoor activities rather than cotton mittens, are much warmer than gloves and allow the children to play comfortably in the snow and cold air. Many children wear neck warmers to school. These are versatile and children can wear them bunched around their necks or pull them up to cover their faces. Winter socks, such as those sold for skiing, help keep children's feet warm in their boots. Boots should fit snugly enough to prevent falling off during active play. Children who stay for the afternoon need two pairs of snow pants. Please clearly label every item of clothing; snowsuits and jackets can often look similar, and labeling also cuts down on lost clothing.


There are two play areas at Fort Hill – an infant/toddler playground and a preschool playground. The equipment on each playground is age-appropriate for that age group. Children must be two-years-old to use the equipment on the preschool playground. Child over three-years-old may not use the bucket swings on the toddler playground.

Playground Gates
The gates on the playground are closed during the day. We ask that if you enter or exit the playground, please be sure to secure the gate. The gates can be opened by pushing down on the pole rising from the latch and pushing the gate at the same time. We do not allow children to manipulate the gates at any time and ask families to follow the same protocol and not allow children to open or close the gates.

Wheeled Toys and Helmets
Helmets must be worn whenever a child is on a wheeled toy on the Fort Hill campus. Every toddler and preschooler is given a helmet when they begin school. There are toddler and preschool helmets. The helmet is labeled with the child’s name and fit to her head. When the child leaves the school, the helmet stays at school and is reused.

Frozen Ground
When the ground is frozen, there is no safety surfacing and the climbers and swings are closed. The ground must be thawed to a depth of 12" for children to use equipment requiring safety surfacing.

Safety Rules
All adults are responsible for the well-being of all the children. During the course of the year, all the teachers are expected to know all of the children. We try to limit the rules on the playground to ones that are necessary for safety. We ask parents to also support these rules when they are on the playground and especially when siblings are on the playground. The playground rules include:

  • Secure footwear must be worn on the playgrounds.
  • Children must be able to gain access to the equipment with minimal support in order to use it, e.g., a child must be able to climb up the climber independently to sit on the net platform.
  • Children must be free of entanglement hazards such as jewelry and strings on clothing.
  • No "underdog" pushes on the swings.
  • Rough and Tumble play must avoid “projectiles” such as throwing punches or kicking, throwing material at people, etc.
  • Educators continually monitor children in close physical contact to be sure that both children are enjoying the activity. The signs we look for are:
    • Smiles
    • Laughter
  • In the absence of signs that the child is enjoying the activity, the educator intervenes.


We maintain vegetable, annual, and perennial gardens on the grounds. The children plant, weed, harvest, and eat the produce in the garden.

The afternoon routines are individualized and children independently participate in all aspects of the afternoon routines to the greatest extent possible. Depending on the classroom and children's needs, afternoon routines begin between 11:00 and 1:00. Our routines are designed to support children in developing healthful habits; in recognizing, regulating and responding to their individual needs; and, in enjoying the social aspects of the afternoon routines.

Lunch and Self-Care Routines

Toddler and preschool children are actively involved in gathering lunchboxes and setting the tables for lunch and eat as a group with their teachers. Infants eat on an individualized schedule.

Preparing and Packing Lunch from Home
Children bring lunch from home, with food prepared according to the USDA guidelines for choking prevention. Please see General Policies & Plans: Food Policy for details on how to prepare food to meet the regulations; food that is not prepared according to the guidelines will be sent home. All food should be peanut-free. Children should have been served all food at home before bringing it to school to ensure they do not have an allergy to the food.

Preparing for Afternoon Routines
As appropriate, children set out lunchboxes, cloth napkins, and reusable cups; children elect to participate (anyone who is interested may help). 

Lunch and Self-Care Routines

  • Window shades are up at lunch; lights are dimmed.
    • Teachers are mindful of the amount of natural light and ensure adequate lighting for safety.
  • As the children come in from outside, they wash their hands and sit for lunch. The rooms coordinate and collaborate. Children may sometimes eat in one of the other rooms.
  • Children open containers, serve themselves, and choose which foods to eat to the greatest extent possible (age appropriate).
  • Children eat at their own pace and select the food they want from their lunchboxes.
    • Teachers encourage children to continue eating or to clean up if lunch extends significantly later than the rest of the group.
    • Children do not share food.
    • Please see General Policies & Plans: Food Policy for information on food restrictions and guidelines.
  • Teachers sit at the tables with the children and engage in the social aspects of eating, including conversation and manners, as well as safe eating habits. Teachers may choose to eat their own lunches while with the children.
  • When finished with lunch, children independently and on individual timetables:
    • Clean up their lunch and place setting.
      • Children pack significant quantities of leftovers or uneaten food and return them to their lunchbox; organic waste is composted and added to the school garden.
  • After cleaning up her space, a child uses the toilet or is diapered, if necessary.


We value ongoing conversations with families to support consistent and quality sleep at school and at home.

Napping Materials
Infant and toddler children bring blankets for napping. The program provides sheets for cribs and nap-mats. Preschool children who stay for the full day should bring a small blanket for nap. We encourage families to send one special object such as teddy bear, cloth diaper, pacifier, etc. which will stay at school in a bag with their blanket and pillow. Please do not send toys, commercial products, or large stuffed animals or pillows for rest time as they can be distracting. The special item should fit in a shoebox.

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care Infant Sleep Safety Policy states: “…no child under 12 months of age shall be napped in a crib, bassinet, portacrib or playpen containing pillows, comforters, stuffed animals, or other soft, padded materials.

Transition to Rest and Nap

  • Teachers set out mats with help from children.
  • Children who have finished lunch and toileting select a book and settle on their nap mats at an individualized pace.
    • If a child departs 12:45–1 p.m., he will look at books independently or play with puzzles in a quiet space, beginning at approximately 12:45 p.m.
    • To the greatest extent possible, children who depart by 3 p.m. nap in one room and children who depart by 4:45 p.m. nap in another room so the children who sleep are not disturbed by the transition.
      • If a child naps in another room, she goes to that room after toileting/diapering and selects a book and settles on her mat.
  • When several children are on mats, the teacher lowers the shades and an audible “sleep cue” is played, this may be a sound machine, chants, or instrumental music.
  • Teachers may assist children in relaxing.
    • Teachers remain seated or standing (teachers do not lie down with children).
    • Children are not restrained on their mats.
  • Children remain on their mats for a period of time in order to allow children who are tired adequate time to fall asleep.
    • Children who do not nap participate in quiet activities.
    • Children may opt to go outside or stay inside between 1:30 and 3 p.m., as staffing allows.
  • Sleep cues (music, shades) are removed at 2:30 p.m.
  • We do not wake children; nap continues until a child wakes independently.
    • If a child is consistently sleeping later than 4 p.m., we will initiate a conversation with a family to discuss the child's daytime and nighttime sleep.
    • An afternoon snack is available after the 2:45 p.m. departure is complete.

We strive to facilitate smooth arrivals and departures for children, families and teachers. Transitions are difficult for all of us and we pay close attention to reducing the stress involved at these times.

This page describes departure procedures and offers suggestions for ways to support children in successfully reuniting with caregivers. If you have any questions or concerns during the year, please feel free to discuss them with a teacher or administrator. Please see the sections titled Arrival and Separation & Transitional Objects from Home for more detail on these topics.

Sign Out

Please be sure to accurately sign out every day, using the clock near the sign-out sheet as a reference. The log is used to verify attendance during times of emergency or evacuation. We are required to maintain these records for one year.

Once you have signed out your child, the responsibility for supervision of the child transfers from the teacher to the parent. By law, all children must be seen and heard at all times. Please do not let your child out of your sight.

Timely and Calm Departures
We offer three departure times at the preschool level, and two at the infant/toddler level. Please plan to arrive in time to leave by the departure time. Promptness at the end of the day is important for your child, for the children who stay at school for a longer day, and for the teachers and program in general.

Depending on your child’s schedule, we ask families to arrive for pick-up at 12:45, 2:45 or 4:45 p.m. and plan to have departed the classroom by 1, 3, or 5 p.m. This fifteen minute "window" is intended as a transition time to allow your child to comfortably transition from the classroom and for parents to have a few brief minutes to talk to the teacher before leaving.

Some families have children in different classrooms at Fort Hill and some children need extended periods of time to transition from school. We thank you for your cooperation in planning to have departed all classrooms by 1, 3 or 5 p.m.

Please be aware when you arrive to pick up your child that not all children are leaving at this time, as their parents may not have yet arrived or they are staying for the remainder of the day. Out of respect for the children and the classroom, please be as least disruptive as possible when picking up your child.

It is important for all children and teachers that children and families depart by the departure time. The children who are leaving have prepared for a transition and benefit from a clear and smooth departure. The children who are staying for the remainder of the day benefit from the calm that follows transitions and deserve the full attention of the teachers at that time. Staffing ratios are reduced and staff members may change during transitions; it is important that the class size reflects the enrollment for that time. Classroom activities are based on the children enrolled for the afternoon and additional adults and children in the classroom make it difficult to appropriately attend to the children who stay. While there are occasionally circumstances that prevent a family from departing on time, lateness, even a few minutes, impacts both children and the program.

The Commons
The Commons are attractive to the children and they often want to play on their way out of the school. The Commons are closed during arrival and departure times unless a classroom teacher is with children in a class group. We ask families to refrain from allowing children to play in the Commons after they have been picked up. The children who stay at school after pick-up times are distracted by the activity in the Common and it is difficult for children to leave the Common.

Departure Time Suggestions
Departures at the end of the day represent a transition and separation for children, as they make the separation from school back to family. A day in a group setting is emotionally and physically exhausting and children need clear communication and support to make the transition a positive experience. The following are suggestions for enhancing a smooth departure.

  • Arrive on time as much as possible. Even a short delay can seem endless to a child who is waiting and who watches other children depart with their families.
  • Arrive 10–15 minutes early to spend time with your child and/or talk to the teachers before leaving whenever possible. Arriving at closing time (1, 3, or after 4:45 p.m.) does not allow for giving a child choices or talking with teachers as the departure will need to be a quick one.
  • Maintain a focus on your child as much as possible. Parents often enjoy talking with each other at the end of the day. However, children may require a parent’s full attention at departure and may act out or become upset if they don’t have it.
  • Ask a teacher for help. Sometimes it is easier for the teachers to get the children ready to leave because children do not have the same emotional agenda with the teacher as they do with their parents. Even with a nap, a child can be tired and emotions can be high at the end of the day. A teacher is more than willing to help you if your child is having a hard time leaving. Please let the teachers know if you would like help or feel uncomfortable with what is happening at the end of the day.
  • If you are going to have someone else pick up your child, please let the teachers know in person and leave a written note. Clearly communicate to your child who will be picking him up, and if the plans change, please call the school and we will convey the message. Please introduce any baby-sitters, friends or relatives who will be regularly picking up your child to the teachers. We will not allow children to leave with anyone who does not have written permission or whom we don’t recognize. If the pick-up person is someone we don’t know, we will ask for picture identification.


Our recognition of holidays is designed to emphasize school-wide community and service to the larger community, while minimizing the commercial aspect of holidays. We seek to reduce the presence of commercialism in the program - we emphasize natural and open-ended materials and experiences; in-depth, extended projects and do not celebrate religious or commercial holidays. The teachers do not plan curriculum to recognize holidays; we encourage parents to share family traditions with their child's classroom. We have built specific traditions around the holidays in October, November, and February that emphasize our school-wide community and service to the larger community. We hope that our holiday traditions minimize stress for families and children, avoid the commercialism associated with the holidays, and engage children in a fun and meaningful experience.

We respect the fact that families often have different holiday traditions, and we encourage parents to come into the classroom and share their family celebrations. Holidays in general have become quite commercialized and can be over-stimulating for young children. Aware of children’s excitement surrounding such celebrations, we allow time for group discussion of their individual experiences without emphasizing holidays in the curriculum.

In October, Halloween is not emphasized at school. We ask families to refrain from sending children to school in costumes and to avoid sending Halloween candy in lunches. Individual classrooms discuss some of the aspects of Halloween that children think about, such as scary costumes.

In November, we traditionally planned a “Feast” for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Children prepare food and on the day of the Feast, some children visit other classrooms to share snack. Typically, siblings come together for the feast and children spend the time with a teacher from a previous year. We hope to return to this tradition when we are safely able to prepare food and celebrate across classrooms.

Teachers do not plan any special celebrations for the December holidays. Parents are welcome to plan time to join the classroom and share their family’s traditions with the group.

The teachers do not plan time for children to exchange valentines in the classrooms. If you would like to exchange valentines, please do so outside of school - please do not bring valentines to school. Instead, each classroom holds a "Stuffed Animal Party." Children will be invited to bring in a favorite stuffed animal and each classroom plans a special activity for their stuffed animal friends. We ask families not to send stuffed animals that represent commercial characters or characters from movies or television.

May and June
We do not plan special events for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

Birthday Celebrations

Infant/Toddler Program

Birthdays are honored with small celebrations to mark growth and change and reaffirm the importance of each individual. Please discuss with the teachers what kind of celebration would be appropriate and fit into the classroom’s routine.

Preschool Program

We typically celebrate children’s birthdays in the preschool; please let your child’s teacher know if you would prefer that his birthday not be recognized at school. Children often bring a special book or a special snack to share. We ask families to avoid snacks with high fat and sugar content, such as cupcakes. Please talk with your child's teacher ahead of time for suggestions.

Update: For the 2021-2022 academic year, we are not providing snack at Fort Hill.  In years when we provide snack, we post snack menus a week in advance and according to state regulations, must notify families of the food their children will eat in school. Please notify teachers a week in advance if you plan to provide a snack so that you are aware of the individual allergies and dietary restrictions of the children in your child’s class. You must provide a list of the ingredients to post a week in advance.

If you are having a birthday party for your child, we ask that invitations be sent through the mail unless every child in the class is invited. Invitations found in cubbies cause great excitement, and we wish to avoid unnecessarily hurt feelings for those children not invited. We encourage children not to discuss their out-of-school parties for this reason.

Children occasionally want to invite teachers to attend their birthday parties. While teachers are honored by invitations, we discourage staff from attending children’s birthday parties. This policy protects both children and teachers. It is likely that teachers will not be able to accept every invitation and we would like to eliminate the possibility that a child is disappointed because a teacher attended one child’s party and not another’s. The policy also ensures that teachers do not feel “pressure” to attend school-related functions on personal time. The policy prevents the perception that some teachers are more accessible, caring or involved than other teachers because of how they choose to spend their personal time.


We have a variety of traditions at Fort Hill. Many occur outside of school hours. Some of the events include:

  • Welcome Picnic with Live Music (September)
  • All-School Sings (Friday mornings throughout the year)
  • Apple-Picking Field Trip (fall)
  • Classroom Potluck Dinners (fall)
  • Donation effort for local organizations (fall and winter)
  • Stuffed Animal Party and Pajama Day (February)
  • Family Concert (winter)
  • Sledding Party (winter)
  • Week of the Young Child Art Exhibit (spring)
  • Henna Day (spring)
  • Grandparent and Special Friend Day (spring)
  • Bike Rally (May)
  • Spring Picnic (May)
  • Teacher Appreciation Brunch (End of the year)

Children and teachers walk to the Smith College campus or to locations in the community. We do not take field trips that involve transporting children in vehicles.

Teachers confirm the availability and the appropriateness of all off-site facilities prior to the trip. The teachers traveling on the trip plan and implement appropriate supervision of the children in the public spaces. All children wear identification pinned to the back of their clothing, which includes the name, address and telephone number of the Center for Early Childhood Education whenever children are off-site. 

Expectations for Parent Chaperones
Teachers frequently invite parents to participate as chaperones on field trips. Parents serving as chaperones have specific responsibilities during a field trip, which will be specified by the teacher before the trip. The responsibilities vary depending on the nature of the trip. All chaperones are responsible for carefully monitoring and supervising children at all times. Typically, chaperones are responsible for the supervision of other children, as well as their own child.

Field Trip Fees
Fees for field trips are based on actual expenses, are determined prior to the trip, and are detailed on the permission form. 

Field Trip Protocol
Teachers walk children both on the Fort Hill grounds and on excursions to the campus or around the community. When walking within sight of the facility, a teacher may be alone with children as long as she is within the mandated EEC ratios. 

If a teacher leaves the immediate visible area, she must notify parents in advance, confirm that parents received the notification, be accompanied by another adult and sign out on the log in the office providing details of the trip and contact information, as well as afix identification badges and carry the items listed below. If traveling beyond the immediate visible area, a minimum of two teachers is required regardless of the number of children.

Whenever children are outside of the fenced in playground area, teachers must carry:

  • First Aid Kit
  • Emergency Contact Information
  • Cell Phone
  • Medications and Medical Forms, including Authorization for Emergency Care
  • Attendance sheet with current family contact information

The first aid kits include:

  • adhesive tape
  • band aids
  • gauze pads
  • compress
  • gauze roller bandage
  • disposable non-latex gloves
  • instant cold pack
  • scissors
  • tweezers
  • thermometer
  • CPR mouth guard 

The protocol for walking field trips is:

  • Teachers map/walk the route before the trip with safety issues in mind.
  • Teachers notify parents and confirm notification.
  • When deemed appropriate, teachers contact Campus Police to provide escort in crossing streets.
  • Teachers prepare children before the trip detailing safety discussions and “rules for walking.” 
  • Teachers detail the responsibilities and expectations of parent chaperones.
  • Teachers afix identification badges to the back of children's outer clothing, identifying Fort Hill, 28 Lyman Road, Northampton, MA 413-585-3290 (the identification does not include the child's name.
  • Teachers sign out in the log in the office.
  • Teachers take attendance before leaving the grounds.
  • An adult always leads.
  • Adults are placed throughout the line.
  • An adult walks at the end of the line.
  • 1 adult for every 4 preschoolers; 1 adult for every 2 toddlers walking and 4 toddlers in strollers, 1 adult for every 3 infants in strollers; a minimum of 2 adults when outside of immediate visibility of the building.
  • The group always uses the crosswalks for crossing when available.
  • An adult stands in the crosswalk to stop traffic as children cross, or awaits Campus Police as planned.
  • Teachers take attendance upon arrival at the destination and before leaving the destination.
  • The teacher contacts the CECE administration if the plan changes, if return is delayed, or if there are unusual circumstances on the field trip.
  • Teachers take attendance upon return to the grounds and if transportation was used, the vehicle is inspected upon return to ensure that all children exited the vehicle.

Emergencies while on a Field Trip
The following procedure is followed in an emergency event occuring away from the Fort Hill grounds.

  • If and accident or acute illness occurs while on a field trip, the supervising teacher takes charge of the emergency, assesses the situation, and administers first aid as needed. The supervising teacher determines the method and urgency of treatment based on the severity of the illness or emergency. If necessary, the teacher will call 911 to summon an ambulance. If on the Smith Campus, the teacher will call Campus Police at 1-413-585-2490.
  • A supporting teacher contacts CECE and notifies the director of the emergency, detailing the nature and extent of the injury or illness and the proposed plan of action.
  • The director notifies EEC, 1-413-788-8401.
  • Teachers carry an attendance list, cell phones, first aid kits, emergency contact information, medical forms, and medications on all field trips.
  • Teachers log the destination, route, and group information on a clipboard in the office before leaving the school.