Tuesday morning September 27 was sunny and clear, a perfect day for preschoolers to inspect their new school.
Children who attend the Neighborhood Preschool (NPS) were welcomed to the new facility located at 60 Long Lane. Tuesday’s family walk-through and time capsule ceremony prepared the little ones, and their parents, for Opening Day on Monday, October 3.
Tuesday’s event began with preschoolers handing artwork over to be included in a time capsule, which was buried after the families toured the new building to see the classrooms for the first time.
NPS Director Suzanne Donnelly said the building represents a new chapter. “(NPS) was housed in two different buildings (since 1989) so it’s going to feel like one family under one roof,” Donnelly said.
What a roof it is. Modern, bright, with natural elements especially on the playground, the simple design is child friendly, starting with the color scheme.
There are four classrooms divided into developmental stages by color (yellow, blue, orange, and green) on the same corridor. The classroom colors are reflected in the floor tile leading to the room, the door frames, portholes, and the rooms’ decoration, including the overhead lights and wall paint. The colors help to orient small children to their classrooms locations in a developmentally appropriate ‘language.’
The decorative portholes were the “dream wish” of Judy Gerolami, lead infant toddler teacher for 33 years. “We’re happy to have them to think of her when we see them. She retired in August, but we hope she’ll come back to visit,” Donnelly said.
The richness of the developmental environment was what impressed parent Dolly Haddad, who has a degree in Elementary Education. “My son goes here, and my daughter Therese will go next year. The rooms are set up to progress developmentally – I can’t wait to see how they grow up in this school,” she said.
Angela Wong, Project Manager of the new building, couldn’t say enough about the work of Enterprise, the company that built the structure, and the enthusiasm Project Superintendent Eric Lamore and the team brought to the job. “The architecture and design team did an excellent job, and Eric’s enthusiasm brought the job in a month early,” Wong said.
“We started in January and came in on the weekends to take the temperature of the poured concrete to make sure it was on target,” Lamore said. “I had a great time on this project. It benefits children and is outside the box. It gives you a sense of energy. (We) worked really hard to get it in early and we hope the kids will have a great time here.”
The project also fits in with the university’s overall efforts at sustainability. The Neighborhood Preschool’s new design will be significantly more energy-efficient, using less than half of the energy of the existing buildings, and is completely fossil-fuel free. Solar panels are integrated into the design of the building. All of these efforts will will generate more energy than the building uses annually.
One aspect of the project Lamore didn’t anticipate was the effect it had on community members. He said during construction someone walked by and expressed gratitude for what was being built. That continuity made Lamore feel even more proud of the work they were doing, and the effect it would have on generations to come.
Parents watchful of their children’s reactions to the new space were unanimously happy. Susan Youssef, former Wesleyan visiting professor of film, was impressed. “It looks stunning, and it’s integrated for all the classes,” Youssef said.
“We’ve only been part of the NPS family for one month. This community is so amazing – play dates, making friends, welcoming and friendly and warm. And the teachers are great,” said Jordan Nyberg, who works in Admissions.
The teachers were excited to start in their new home. Teacher Ashley Natale explained the importance of a pre-Opening Day visit. “We wanted to give (the preschoolers) an idea of the space and what to expect,” Natale said.
As the children walked back to their classrooms on High Street and Lawn Avenue, Eric finished burying the time capsule next to a yellow tree. The ground was muddy, workers put the finishing touches on the outdoor climbing equipment, and the air was filled with happy anticipation.