Village Preschool Offers Extended Care

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By Kathie Bowen

Atlantic News, November 21, 1996

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News

PRE-SCHOOL FUN -- Preschool children sit during circle time. In the background is teacher, Kathy Montgomery. James Drinkwater in the red and Trevor Hartman, left, look inquiringly at the camera, as Cody Russ decides he doesn't want his picture taken. Sitting around is from left to right, Stephanie Johnson, Christopher Michel, Justin Hartman, and Jason Busfield.
[Atlantic News Photo by Kathie Bowen]

HAMPTON -- On the wall in the coatroom at The Village Preschool is a poem called "Children learn what they live." It begins, "If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn..."

Coats and backpacks lined the wall in a jumbled array of color. A bulletin board at the far wall showed a calendar that highlighted "corn muffin day" and "red and yellow day." Another morning had begun at the community-based preschool.

Director Kim Harkins, who began with the preschool in September, has lots to say about the program. She was a mom with a three-year-old looking for a program when she first became involved with the school back in April.

"As a parent and teacher, I was very impressed with the program. That -- and it doesn't hurt that it has reasonable rates!" she laughed as she explained why she chose The Village Preschool for her son, Andrew. "It was his school before 'Mom' came."

The Village Preschool started at a Success by Six conference in April of 1993. The school is non-profit, and also a United Way agency, licensed for 30 children. The ratio is 5-6 children per teacher.

Out in the cloakroom, volunteer and board member Kathy Montgomery was helping Christopher who was trying to juggle his hat, mittens and coat for the first time. "Let me show you how to do this. You put the mittens in the hat, then the hat in the coat!' she told him.

The poem was above her head. "If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself..." it continued.

This year, the school has expanded to include an extended day program. The day begins at 7:00 a.m. and ends at 6:00 p.m.

"We probably have currently a dozen full-time extended care children," Harkins explained. Some attend in the early a.m., others after school. She explained that the school is willing to work with everyone's schedule. "All we ask is that parents keep us informed," she said about the school's flexibility, laughingly comparing some days to a revolving door. Children come and go according to parent's work schedules or their own kindergarten program.

The school offers the traditional two and three day preschool in both the morning and afternoon, so extended day children participate in the pre-school program. The extended day program is just another step in a journey that seeks to meet the needs of children in the Hampton area.

Board member and former director Ginny Bridle has been with The Village Preschool since September of 1993 when she was hired to, in her own words, "Take the mission and turn it into a reality."

With a goal of opening in September of '94, the board of directors began looking for funding. They raised between $60-70 thousand the first year, thanks to the help of County Commissioner Jane Walker, the Rockingham Diversion Fund, and Angela Mathews from the Greater Piscataqua Trust. The school opened its doors on Merrill Industrial Drive with a 12,000 square foot condo unit and a playground shared with another preschool in the area. By spring-time, the school had already outgrown its space, so in August of '95 a new building was found. Three units at 70 High Street were combined to form the preschool's current space.

When the Village Preschool became a United Way agency in 1995, it was time for another step. Ginny Bridle explained, "We weren't meeting the needs of people who needed to work but needed preschool for their child." So the extended care program was born.

Scholarships are available to families if needed, but Bridle cautions against the image of a preschool for families in need. "We thrive because we're a healthy mix" she claims, stating that 50% of the scholarships go to proud working families anxious to give their children a good start in education. Scholarships are not available for extended care, but parents can apply for a preschool scholarship to help with expenses.

There is also scholarship money available for North Hampton children who need preschool, thanks to the Foundation for Seacoast Help and North Hampton resident Caroline Levine.

The long list of board members for The Village Preschool include Hampton School staff, PTA members, local professionals and parents. Many volunteer in the preschool.

The education of preschool students in The Village Preschool does not end at the preschool doors. The school also promotes family literacy by offering such programs as a once-a-month storyteller, pot luck suppers, parent education and support programs, and a literacy program founded by the Winebaum Foundation from Portsmouth where children are sent home with a new book each month to share with their families.

The poem in the coatroom ends with: "If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world." At the Village Preschool, young Hampton area children are learning these values early.

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