CHERRYFIELD. The Narraguagus Nursery School is looking for a new home. The school, which has served over a thousand children ages 3-5 in southern Washington County since 1971, will be losing its current space, likely within the next year.
The Narraguagus Nursery School has been located in the basement of the Weald Bethel chapel, located off U.S. Route 1 in Cherryfield, since 1971. The building is owned by the Maine Sea Coast Mission, which also operates the Ed Greaves Education Center and Downeast Food Pantry on the 60-acre campus. Teachers Tracy Ramsay and Wanda Hammond, both of whom have been with the school for over a decade, were notified in early 2013 that major renovations were planned for the current Nursery School space at some point in the near future.
In early February, frozen water pipes in the building burst, forcing the school to find alternate meeting space until repairs could be made. The Cherryfield Congregational Church has been graciously providing the school with a meeting space in the interim. When school faculty inquired as to when classes could resume at the chapel location, they were informed by Wendy Harrington, Director of Service Programs, that the Mission had begun renovation work at the site.
According to Harrington, the chapel basement, which has been home to the nursery school for over forty years, will be completely remodeled and a new addition will be added with no suitable space for the nursery school. School board president Amity Chipman, who met with Harrington last week, reports that classes will be allowed to resume at the site by mid-April, when the current phase of renovation is expected to be completed. Because completion of the renovation project is contingent upon funding, Harrington could not provide a specific date by which the School will need to permanently vacate the space.
The Narraguagus Nursery School is a nonprofit run by a 9-person board comprised of parents and community members. Since its inception, the school has been funded entirely by fundraisers and tuition – which currently ranges from $80 to $180 per student per month, with 1, 2, or 3 days/week enrollment options. There are 21 students aged 3 to 5 enrolled this year, Ramsay reports, adding that the school is licensed for 20 per day. The school operates Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., September through May.
A typical school-day begins with “free-play” – students have their choice of blocks, a sand table, art supplies, and an assortment of toys that inspire pretend play – animals, castles, pirate ships, etc. Following free-play, the children gather for “circle time,” which usually consists of a song and a story. After snack, the teachers work with students on letter recognition and engage them in a creative project geared toward sharpening the social, motor and developmental skills that prepare them to enter kindergarten.
Pre-kindergarten options for area children are extremely limited. The local school district (RSU/MSAD #37) does not offer a pre-kindergarten education program, and the local HeadStart program enrolls students based on strict federal income guidelines. For many local families, Narraguagus Nursery School offers the only opportunity for their child(ren) to develop the social and fine motor skills that will ease their transition into kindergarten.
Narraguagus Nursery School is looking for an affordable space that will serve as its new permanent home beginning in September 2013. To run effectively, the school needs a space with heat, running water, and a bathroom, along with an outdoor area that can be fenced to house the school’s playground equipment. The Narraguagus Nursery School is very grateful for the space the Maine Sea Coast Mission has provided rent-free for over four decades. Chipman acknowledges that the school will most likely have to pay rent for a new space. “With a small budget, we are limited on rental options; however, parents have recently stepped up fundraising efforts”.
On a much more personal note: “Many of our children’s parents went to school here.” says Ramsay. “It would be such a shame [if a new site for the school cannot be found], the school would have to close.”
If you can help the Narraguagus Nursery School in its search for a new home, or would like to make a donation to help keep the school open, please call Amity Chipman at 546-2426, Tracy Ramsay at 483-6168 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations may be mailed to Narraguagus Nursery School PO Box 131 Cherryfield, ME 04622.
reported by: Tracey Gamache and Amity Chipman