By Danielle Ray, Senior Reporter
Princeton Community Preschool staff members are excited to finally hear the pitter patter of little feet and children’s laughter once again when they finally reopen the doors this month.
“We are hoping to bring back this necessary community preschool stronger and better than ever,” said co-director Kathy Johnson, “to fill the walls and playground with friendship, wonder, and discovery. It truly is a labor of love.”
Located in First Congregational Church of Princeton on Mountain Road in the heart of town, the preschool was first opened in the fall of 1990 by members of the community and sponsored by the church. Johnson has been working there for 26 years and co-director Hillary Doyle for 12 years.
“I love the sense of community,” Doyle said. “Seeing the connection of family and school, the making of first friendships. Providing the children with a positive first school experience is our most important endeavor. We wholeheartedly believe this is the foundation for future school success.”
Like so many other schools across the state, country, and world, the preschool was forced to close in March of 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. They attempted to reopen that September but were not able to sustain the school at that point in time.
“With very low enrollment and heavy hearts we came to the decision that financially, opening would not be possible,” Johnson said.
Doyle said that “with fingers crossed” they started enrollment for the 2021-22 school year this past February.
“Our dedicated team of teachers, directors and board of directors are thrilled to announce that our doors will reopen on August 31,” she said, adding that they follow the Wachusett Regional School District calendar.
Johnson said that pre-pandemic the preschool was “flourishing, with many children joining us from other towns too because they heard wonderful things about our program.”
This year due to suggested Covid state safety protocols they are registering children in either the Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday group, with choice of mornings from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. or full days, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. While the classes are starting to fill up, they do have some openings available still.
“Our hope is to get right back to the numbers of children who attended prior to the pandemic,” Doyle said.
Preschoolers are exposed to a wide variety of art and other materials, activities, and educational experiences at the school including paint, glue, cutting, coloring, drawing, singing, dancing, scooping, measuring, touching, smelling, building, jumping, sliding, and more.
“Princeton Community Preschool’s initial philosophy of learning through discovery, rich experiences, and play continues to evolve and grow with all the children who join us,” Johnson said. “I enjoy seeing how each child works to create, whether it’s art, building, drawing and writing, imaginative interactions or friendships, we are providing them with a large variety of experiences as they grow and develop.”
Doyle and Johnson said they endeavor to provide a school environment “that feels like home away from home.”
“Children are encouraged and free to seek out their interests in the classroom,” Doyle said. “We believe the choice is theirs and that builds their independence. The experiences we provide encompass colors, shapes, letters, numbers, science, and math ideas, and this is all merged with play. It may look like only playing to some, but those minds are working, the wheels are turning, and they are absorbing these experiences like sponges.”
Johnson echoed those sentiments, saying they take pride in providing a well-rounded preschool experience.
“Throughout our sessions we strive to build strong social emotional skills so that children find and use their voices and opinions and build an awareness and respect for others,” she said. “Seeing the children develop their own sense of expression through their movements and vocabulary is very rewarding. I love the community feeling that forms each year as new families join us.”
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