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Weston nursery school closes its doors

Emmanuel Nursery has been operating since 1970. New classrooms were built in 2011 (shown here not long after opening), but because of declining enrollment, the school will close at the end of this month. (Forum file photo)

Emmanuel Nursery has been operating since 1970. New classrooms were built in 2011 (shown here not long after opening), but because of declining enrollment, the school will close at the end of this month. (Forum file photo)

Emmanuel Nursery School is the latest victim of tough economic times. After providing educational programs to 3- and 4-year-olds for 43 years, the school is shutting its doors.

Its last day of operation will be May 31.

“We did whatever we could, but with declining enrollment we’ve been struggling and had to finally give in,” said Alyse Connelly, the school’s director and head teacher of the Fours program.

The nursery school is owned by Emmanuel Episcopal Church but is non-denominational. It was successful for many years, and at one point was so popular there was a waiting list to get in.

“When I first started here 10 years ago, on enrollment day, parents would set their phones on redial and kept calling the school in order to get their children registered. We had a waiting list with 15 names on it,” Ms. Connelly said.

But in the past few years, the combination of a poor economy, fewer families with small children moving into Weston, and alternative nursery schools in town and close by has contributed to a dwindling enrollment at Emmanuel.

There are currently three other nursery schools operating in Weston: Norfield Children’s Center at Norfield Congregational Church, St. Francis of Assisi Preschool, and the Hand-in-Hand program at the Early Learning Center at Hurlbutt Elementary School.

Emmanuel’s mission was to provide a warm and accepting environment for young children, viewing each child as a whole person with individual needs.

The school was more than just an academic program; it emphasized social growth, too. “Children made friends at a young age at Emmanuel and they stayed friends,” Ms. Connelly said.

The school has three staff members. Ms. Connelly came to Emmanuel in 2002 and started as a teacher in the Threes program. Linda Doyle, the current head teacher of the Threes program, joined the school in 2010, and Ellen Prackup, assistant teacher, joined in 2006.

Outreach project

Teachers at Emmanuel Nursery School in 2006 were looking forward to another school year at Back to School Night. From left are Kim Murray, Barbara Schwertley, Betsy Ready (former director), Alyse Connelly (current director), and Heidi Keeney. (Forum file photo)

Teachers at Emmanuel Nursery School in 2006 were looking forward to another school year at Back to School Night. From left are Kim Murray, Barbara Schwertley, Betsy Ready (former director), Alyse Connelly (current director), and Heidi Keeney. (Forum file photo)

Betsy Ready, a former director of the school, explained that Emmanuel Nursery School was started in 1970 by church members Peggy Ann Anderson and Cubby Hickcox as an outreach project of Emmanuel Church. Since it opened, the school has been consistently staffed by certified teachers.

The school is licensed with the state by the vestry (board of directors) of Emmanuel Church as a nonprofit, non-denominational nursery school.

Ms. Ready, who is also a member of Emmanuel’s vestry, said it was ultimately the vestry’s call to stop operations of the nursery school. “With the declining enrollment, we just didn’t have a choice. We decided to close the school because it’s not viable anymore,” she said.

The church’s rector, Robert Ross, said the vestry is now looking at other ways to use the four classrooms of space the school occupied in the church’s parish hall, which was newly constructed in 2011. “The vestry is looking for ways to use the space for some other sort of ministry,” Mr. Ross said.

Ms. Connelly said she will miss the children and the school’s programs. Students participated in annual mitten drives and took field trips to local farms. Each week the school had different themes, such as hibernation week, solar system week, and the very popular monster week. The staff also worked with students to assure they had a smooth transition to kindergarten.

“I’ll miss the school. It’s a special place,” Ms. Connelly said.

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